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Giving back to the ‘Cats

For the last quarter of a century, the UNH Field Hockey program has been led by one of their own. Robin Balducci has left her mark not only as a head coach, but as a former player, mentor and teacher. Through the successful years of postseason runs, coaching awards, achievements and accomplishments, Balducci looks to give back to her alma mater.

As a coach and a player, Balducci has been setting milestones ever since her freshman year in 1981. Not only was she a four-year starter in field hockey, she also was a four-year starter for the women’s hockey team. Balducci completed the trifecta, playing a sport in every season, acting as a three-year starter for lacrosse in the spring season. Balducci was a captain for all three teams, leading the lacrosse team to UNH’s only NCAA championship in the sport. She was a field hockey All-American, and sits sixth on the UNH ice hockey all-time scoring list.

“UNH was always a school I believed in, I went to school here, it’s a beautiful campus, a great location,” Balducci said.

Balducci is the winningest head coach in program history, notching 246 wins and 20 postseason appearances. She became the first America East coach to win three consecutive America East Coach of the Year awards and has the most overall Coach of the Year honors at six.

The trophy shelf is not empty, and the accomplishment list is not short for Balducci, who excelled at every sport she ever played. She felt it would be best to give back to the school and the sport that gave her so many opportunities.

“As an alumnus she’s always trying to push it to the next level,” assistant coach Ross Gorham said.

As a coach, Balducci came aboard as the head coach of the Wildcats in 1991 Three out of her first four years at the helm of the ‘Cats saw UNH ranked top-20 in the country.  As a successful coach early on, Balducci and her squad never stopped improving. From 2002-2004 and 2007-2009, UNH made the America East tournament. From 2010-2012 the Wildcats were the regular season champions in the conference.

“She’s always open to finding new best ways to do things,” Gorham said.

2013 saw the peak of Wildcat dominance on the field hockey turf as they captured their fourth straight America East title.

Through her entire time with UNH, Balducci notes that those stretches of years were a highlight in her career.

“We have had a lot of NCAA tournament appearances, we’ve had a few America East championships, those are clearly the highs,” Balducci said.

She harped on how proud she was of her teams playing in the NCAA tournament.

“I think I’m most proud of the teams that qualified for the NCAAs. You spend the whole offseason and next spring being very proud of what you accomplished.”

Balducci’s coaching experience has led her to places outside of Durham. In the summer of 1996, she was a member of the United States National team coaching staff. The team travelled to Germany for international competition, and in 1995, she worked with the U-21 team in Holland.

Balducci also mentioned that some of her best accomplishments over her historic career is watching her players receive All-American honors, and to have the ability to play overseas.

“She works tirelessly, there’s never an off moment, she works really really hard,” Gorham said.

The 2016 season looms and high expectations are set for the young Wildcat team. Balducci mentioned that this group is still looking for their mantra, but they will have to wait until summer camp to truly know what this team is made of.

When asked about the constant success year-after-year, Balducci only credits the university, saying that the campus of UNH and Wildcat country, “It’s an easy sell,” Balducci said with a smile.

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