DURHAM, N.H. – Robin Balducci, 22nd-year head coach of the University of New Hampshire field hockey team, announced Thursday that four student-athletes signed a National Letter of Intent to attend UNH in the Fall 2013 semester and play for the Wildcats' field hockey team.
The quartet is comprised of midfielder Gianna Bensaia (Yorktown Heights, N.Y.), back Jackie Hozza (Sinking Spring, Pa.), goalkeeper Melissa Rize (Severn, Md.) and midfielder Aggie Sutherland (Dauphin, Pa.). These players received a total of one All-America Team, one Regional All-America Team, two Academic All-America Team and six All-State Team awards; they also combined to win four state championships.
"We are really excited about the potential within this class, not only with the accomplishments but what they can contribute to the team immediately and move our program to an even more competitive level in 2013," Balducci said.
"This class is probably one of the most decorated classes to come in to our program with their accomplishments both at the high school and club level," she continued. "They bring a high skill level and athleticism in addition to a winning culture."
Bensaia is the fifth recruit from Lakeland High School brought to the UNH field hockey program by Balducci and the incoming freshman will be reunited with current Wildcat and 2012 All-America Third Team honoree Megan Bozek. Bensaia was named to the high school All-America Second Team as a senior, when she was also tabbed Player of the Year by The Journal News and MSG, and was a Regional All-America Team selection as a junior. The four-year field hockey letterwinner was a three-time All-State and all-conference honoree.
In addition to a standout high school career at Lakeland, Bensaia was a member of the USA Field Hockey Under-17 Squad and U-17 Junior National Team. She also was a gold medalist at the USA Field Hockey Festival with the Hudson Valley field hockey club and competed at the USA Junior Olympics twice.
Hozza led Wilson West Lawn High School to four Berks I Division championships and was named to the Academic All-America Team and All-State Second Team as a senior, when the team captain was also an All-County First Team selection and tabbed Berks County Outstanding Defensive Player.
Hozza also plays for the X-Calibur field hockey club and helped her team to a first-place finish at the 2009 AAU National Field Hockey Championship.
Rize was a three-year starting goalie for Archbishop Spalding. As a senior, she was an Academic All-America Team, All-State First Team, All-Met Second Team (both Washington, D.C. and Baltimore metro areas) and All-County First Team honoree who was selected to the Maryland Senior Game. Rize captained the team that year and recorded an .864 save percentage with 10 shutouts.
As a junior, Rize was an All-State Honorable Mention and All-County Second Team selection with an .856 save percentage. She finished with an .859 save percentage as a sophomore.
Rize will once again be teammates with Casey Pohlmeyer – the duo played together on the Spark field hockey club, for whom Rize was a two-year captain. She also competed at the AAU Junior Olympics and is a USFHA Futures participant, including a bronze medal at the National Futures Tournament.
Sutherland captained the Central Dauphin High School field hockey team as a senior, when she was named Commonwealth Player of the Year, All-State First Team, Mid Penn All-Star and Mid Penn Big 11. One year earlier, Sutherland was a Mid Penn All-Star as the Rams were Mid Penn champions and advanced to the state semifinals.
Sutherland also plays for the Key State field hockey club, where she and current 'Cat Lynne Lehman were teammates, and is a USFHA Futures participant.
This class joins the UNH field hockey program that has won three consecutive America East regular-season titles and advanced to the conference championship game for the third time in as many years in 2012. The Wildcats finished the year 12-8 overall with a 5-0 record in America East.