The Salem News
---- — 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.
“Jillian has a deferential demeanor that is laced with a great sense of humor (which) she slyly shares with those lucky enough to witness it,” said Meghan Farley, Pingree’s co-director of college counseling. “She is a leader in class discussion, never afraid to instigate meaningful debates. It is her strong moral compass and solid work ethic that will guide her.”
A captain of all three sports at Pingree, Witwicki is also a member of the school’s Freedom Club and Knitting Club. She also takes part in a challenger athletic program for children with special needs.
“I always admired how inclusive Jill is. She is so encouraging; she combines her talent and accomplishments with empathy and sportsmanship, “ said Pingree softball coach and teacher Jim MacLaughlin.
College you will be attending: Undecided, considering Amherst, St. Michael’s and others
What is your favorite book?: “Eleven Seconds” by Travis Roy
What is your favorite movie?: “Argo”
Who is your favorite singer or musical group?: Darius Rucker
What is your favorite website?: Pinterest
What is your favorite class in school?: AP Statistics
What athletic feat are you most proud of and why?: “Winning the Eastern Independent League ice hockey championship in overtime my junior year. This was the third consecutive year that we faced Berwick Academy in the finals, and though we were not expected to win, we believed in ourselves as a team and pulled off the upset.”
Who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?: “My parents. They push me to do my best while also supporting me in everything I do. They have given me so much to allow me to follow my academic and athletic dreams — and I cannot thank them enough.”
Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?: I would like to be teaching special education and coaching a girls high school hockey team.”