Campus Currents

A Season of Records
Field hockey chalks up an America East championship

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On a bone-chillingly cold, gray day in late November, women race across the nearly football-field-sized Memorial Field wearing only sweats, shorts and T-shirts. Resounding thunks are heard as carbon fiber and fiberglass sticks send a dense white ball careening from player to player. So are laughter and lively chatter: These 2011 America East tournament champions are out for an end-of-season scrimmage in which the players take on each other's positions for a bit of merriment. It's a small but treasured reward for a grinding year of NCAA Division I field hockey.

Lisa Nugent/UNH Photographic Services
STICKING IT: Playing in the America East tournament against Boston University are, from front to back (in white), Hayley Rausch '12, Casey Pohlmeyer '14 and Melyssa Woods '13.

A current of intensity flows through this team—even in fun, the players' shots are powerful and precise, their speed impassioned. Head coach Robin Balducci '85 credits the championship to the players' sense of ownership, high skill level and controlled-possession game.

"We have six seniors, including our goalkeeper Katherine Nagengast, who are well-entrenched in the development of the team," says Balducci, a 21-year veteran with the Wildcats. "Their leadership has been instrumental."

The team tied the national benchmark for wins in a season (17). They also broke the single-season records for goals (78), assists (61) and points (217). The regional title won them a place in the NCAA national championship, where, in a first-round game against the University of Michigan, they lost 5-4.

The players give a nod to Balducci's assessment, but collectively they say it is their camaraderie that did the trick. Especially for the seniors, three of whom have played almost every minute of every game since they were freshmen, it is the years of hard work, the esprit de corps, and the life lessons gained through teamwork that they will take with them when they graduate.

The official season begins in late August, but running and lifting workouts begin the week after the previous Thanksgiving, making field hockey a year-round sport. "Off-season is where we get better," explains fullback Kyle Lyons '12. "It's when we develop as a unit."

Six seniors graduating in May will leave a significant hole in the team's starting roster next fall. But the underclassmen have absorbed the team's spunk, and they have no compunction about taking up proprietary rights.

"It's been a senior show for the past two years," says sophomore fullback Megan Bozek '14. "Now it's our turn. We are ready to fill those shoes and make our own name for ourselves."

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