Women's Soccer |
Bearcat to Watch: Renee Balconi
by Allison Hoehn, Sports Communications Student
In the spring of 2004, Head Coach Meridy Glenn said that her rising seniors were "ready to shine." One of those seniors, co-captain Renee Balconi, has proven Glenn's statement true every time she steps on the field.
The 5-8 senior from Westerville, Ohio is the defensive backbone for this year's young team. Although the season has started disappointingly, Balconi still looks for improvement and has an unfailing faith in this season's women's soccer team.
Being a co-captain, along with senior Amy Mink, is something that is very important and special to Balconi. "It's definitely a privilege. The great thing about this position as co-captain is that your teammates voted you that. It also comes with a lot of responsibility and what makes them happy is what makes me happy. So it's a little bit of pressure but it's good pressure."
Leading this year's Bearcat team has been a challenge with 15 sophomores and freshmen, as well as a demanding schedule. The Bearcats entered last week are 4-9 and 13th in Conference USA. Although the team has a disappointing record, that doesn't seem to have any bearing in the team's attitude.
"I think every week we try to remind each other that you can't hang your head and concentrate on the game that you just lost. You have games coming up so you have to get their heads up and try to make the best of the upcoming week and the upcoming games."
And as far as the impact of this year's freshmen and sophomores, Balconi has nothing but positive feedback, "They've impacted this season in a positive way. They have brought a lot of character; definitely a lot of funny times. They have been a plus to this team."
It's easy to see that Renee thoroughly enjoys being a senior and a leader to the younger players, and she likes the way it reminds her of when she was a freshman and how she has grown throughout her years here at UC.
"I picked UC because my family always told me to follow my heart, and so when I came here and walked off this campus after my visit to see my mom, I knew: the girls, the coaches and the atmosphere all said to come here. If I could find a second family, to feel like I was at home, this was the place for me."
And UC seems to have been the perfect fit for Balconi since she has not only found her second family here, but close friendships, success on and off the field, and priceless memories. "I like to think of our team as a family and you try your best to make sure every single person is involved with that family. We're all there for each other on and off the field."
That family atmosphere is an important component to the experience of playing for the Bearcats. That atmosphere was truly fostered when this year's team took a preseason trip touring and playing in Europe this past September. "Europe was definitely an experience I will never forget," says Balconi. "You didn't have school or other people, you just had your team and that was about it."
The team's trip to Europe was also a special one since a few senior parents, including Renee's mother, got to go along. Family is definitetly a priority, and the close relationship that Balconi has with her family is evident on the field as she wears the number 21 on her jersey.
"My mom's favorite number is 3, so I put 2 and 1 together. I also wanted 2 and 1 because I have a twin brother who is my best friend in the entire world."
Free time isn't a word that is used in Balconi's vocabulary very often, but when it does come around, the time is time well spent. "Free time, if I have any, is to concentrate and spend time on the things and the people that you don't mean to forget but you do. It's to appreciate the little things and that's what I think makes a person happy; if you just take the time to appreciate what you have."
As a senior, Balconi has had time to reflect on her years here at UC and to some of her favorite memories. "Winning conference (in 2001 and 2002) definitely, but I think my favorite UC moment this year is just being able to look back as a senior and over the years and just thanking God for all of the great relationships and friendships and memories that I have now and that I can leave with."
But don't think that Balconi is finished yet. She still has a goal for this year's squad and is doing everything in her power to accomplish that.
"I don't want to leave here without giving something to this team. I want to leave here giving them the feeling of what it's like to win. I came here as a freshman and losing was not allowed. My freshman and sophomore year we won Conference and you sit there and you want to explain to them what it feels like, but you can't because there are no words. The only thing that I can do as a senior and as a leader is to just somehow get the team to that point; to know that feeling."