In 22 seasons at the helm of the University of New Hampshire field
hockey program, Robin Balducci is the
program’s all-time winningest head coach by guiding the
Wildcats to 222 victories and 18 postseason appearances.
Balducci has guided UNH to the America East regular-season title and been honored as the America East Coach of the Year each of the past three years (2010-11-12). The Wildcats went 14-1 in conference action, including a perfect 5-0 record in 2010 and 2012, during that span, won the tournament title in 2011 and finished as runner-up in ‘10 and ‘12.
During Balducci’s tenure, UNH has advanced to postseason play 18 times with three NCAA tournament appearances. Balducci is the first to receive three consecutive America East Coach of the Year accolades and is tied for the most overall conference coaching awards with five (1998, 2000-10-11-12). Furthermore, she is a two-time Northeast Region Coach of the Year honoree (1998, 2011).
Balducci enters her 23rd season with an overall record of 222-217-4 that includes 82-57-2 in America East conference play. Under her tutelage, 16 Wildcats have received All-America honors and that includes First Team selections Stacy Fimple and Rebecca Provost in 1994 as well as Marcie Boyer in 2002 and Whitney Frates in 2011. A UNH Wildcat has been selected America East Offensive Player of the Year three of the last five years (2008-09-11) and last season a ‘Cat was feted Defensive Player of the Year.
Balducci reached the 200-win milestone when UNH defeated the College of the Holy Cross, 5-0, at Memorial Field on Sept. 16, 2011. She recorded her 100th career victory October 14, 2000 when the Blue and White defeated the University of Vermont in Durham.
Last year, Balducci led the program to a third consecutive conference regular-season crown – which included three wins against nationally-ranked teams – and second undefeated conference record in three years. The Wildcats, who were selected fourth in the America East preseason poll, peaked at No. 15 in the nation and ended at No. 20 following its runner-up finish in the America East tourney. UNH tallied at least 12 wins for the fourth consecutive year.
In 2011, UNH recorded one of its most successful seasons in program history and Balducci received two Coach of the Year awards – America East and NFHCA Northeast Region. The Wildcats won the America East regular-season and tournament titles and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2000 en route to tying the school record for single-season victories (17). The 2011 ‘Cats broke the program record for goals (78), assists (61) and points (217). UNH ascended to #7 in the nation and finished at #9.
One year earlier, the ‘Cats completed their first unbeaten league season (5-0 record) and won their first outright league title since 2000 (they shared the ‘02 crown). New Hampshire, ranked #19 in the nation – the Wildcats had not been ranked since the 2000 season, then lost in overtime of the conference championship game to fall one goal short of advancing to the NCAA tournament. UNH ended the season with a 14-7 record to tie the fourth-highest win total in program history. The ‘Cats tied for the highest number of representatives on both the America East All-Conference First Team and All-Rookie Team (three apiece).
In 2009, the Wildcats advanced to the America East tournament for the third consecutive year and ended ‘09 with a 12-7 overall record.
In 2008, the Wildcats boasted the highest-scoring offense in America East and finished as league runner-up in both the regular season standings and tournament. UNH had a league-high four representatives on the All-Rookie Team. The ‘Cats finished with nine wins for the second consecutive year and had four overtime losses (three to nationally-ranked teams).
UNH won six of the initial nine games of the 2007 season and consecutive shutout victories against Davidson and Fairfield gave the ‘Cats a 9-8 record late in the season. UNH advanced to the America East tournament and was ousted in the semifinals. The Wildcats finished ‘05 with a 7-12 overall record and missed the league tourney by virtue of a tiebreaker.
In 2004, Balducci led the ‘Cats to their third consecutive appearance in the America East Championships. She guided the ‘03 team to second place in the league standings with a 5-1 mark and UNH finished with a 10-11 overall record. In 2002, UNH won a share of the America East regular-season title and finished with a 12-8 overall record.
In ‘00, Balducci guided UNH to the America East regular-season title, a runner-up finish in the conference tourney and an NCAA tournament appearance for the second time in a three-year span. In 1999, Balducci led UNH to a 12-7 overall record that included a 7-1 mark in America East. The ‘Cats earned the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament but fell short in their quest to defend the league title.
In 1998, she directed the Wildcats to the NCAA tournament and they concluded the season with a 14-7 record, 6-2 America East mark and a conference championship. In 1997, UNH reemerged on the national scene, ascended to No. 8 in the nation and capped a successful 11-10 campaign with a loss in the ECAC championship game.
Balducci is also a prominent figure on the national field hockey scene. In 1995, she was selected as a member of the United States National Team coaching staff. In the summer of ‘96, Balducci travelled to Germany with the U.S. National Team to compete in the Champions Trophy and the team finished in sixth place. The year before that, Coach Balducci embarked on a tour of Holland with the U-21 National team. During the 1995 calendar year, she toured Australia with the U.S. National Team, travelled to Spain with the U-21 squad and was a member of the coaching staff at the Pan American Games in Argentina, where the U.S. won the silver medal.
Balducci, a Milford, Mass. native, has been involved in United States Field Hockey Association developmental camps since 1985 and continues to work at both the ‘A’ and ‘B’ camp levels.
In 1991, her first year at the helm of the Wildcats, Balducci led UNH to an 11-6-2 record, a semifinal North Atlantic Conference playoff berth and a final national ranking of No. 12. In 1992, she kept the Wildcats in the national picture by leading her team to the NAC final. The following season, Balducci led the ‘Cats to a national ranking of No. 19 when UNH posted a 12-6-2 record.
In her fourth season, Balducci guided New Hampshire to its best record in five years with a 14-8 mark in ‘94. The team was ranked 14th in the country that year and advanced to the NAC championship game. Without a place to call home in 1995 – Memorial Field was unplayable because of the Whittemore Center construction – Balducci coached the ‘Cats to a 7-12 mark.
Balducci, a 1985 graduate of UNH, was a three-sport standout for the Wildcats and served as captain for each team. As a four-year starter in both field hockey and ice hockey, as well as a three-year starter in lacrosse, Balducci led UNH to both regional and national prominence.
She earned Regional All-America honors in both field hockey and lacrosse, and still ranks sixth on the ice hockey all-time point scoring list. In 1985, Balducci was the starting goalkeeper for the Wildcat lacrosse team that won the only NCAA championship in UNH athletics’ history. The entire national championship lacrosse team was inducted into the inaugural class of the UNH Department of Women’s Athletics Hall of Honor in 1994 and Balducci herself was inducted in 1998 in recognition of her individual accomplishments.
As starting goalkeeper her senior year, Balducci led the Wildcat field hockey team to the first round of the NCAA Tournament. In 1984, she was selected to the U.S. National Field Hockey Squad. She still holds the UNH school record for career shutouts with 31.
Before returning to her alma mater, Balducci served as an assistant coach at Northeastern University for three years.