SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports Special

April 1, 2014

2014 Salem News Student Athlete Award profile: Jillian Witwicki, Pingree

Having two head coaches for one sport in a single season isn’t always easy. But having a captain like Jillian Witwicki to lead the Pingree girls hockey team was a dream come true for both Highlander coaches this winter.

Buddy Taft filled in for head coach Sarah Carpenter during her maternity leave, and the Highlanders thrived under each, despite losing one of their captains to torn knee cartilage. Both Carpenter and Taft gave the credit to their squad’s leader: the always positive and affable Witwicki.

“The most impressive thing about Jill is the way she leads. That’s not something you can learn by shooting pucks in the driveway,” said Taft. “She has high expectations, but she does it in such a positive way. She doesn’t say anything negative, and she has a way of making teammates feel great about themselves.”

Hockey is Witwicki’s favorite sport — and it’s easy to see why. She’s a four-year varsity force and graduated as the sixth member of Pingree’s 100-Point Club for girls hockey. She was Eastern Independent League MVP and received the program’s prestigious Wheeler Award. She was never picky about who shared the ice with her and relished the chance to give assists on teammates’ first career goals.

“Jill never let anything get her down, instead offering to play with beginners to help the team. She was outstanding, selfless and always wanted her teammates to find success first,” said Carpenter. “She’s the heart and soul of our program, and she loved helping them learn the game.”

Also a league all-star in field hockey and softball, Witwicki hails from Danvers. She’s received Pingree department honors in math, science and visual arts while tackling Advanced Placement courses in statistics and environmental science.

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