Wittig named player of the year, drafted into the NWHL

Wittig is the first Division III hockey player to be drafted into the NWHL

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Wittig named player of the year, drafted into the NWHL

Courtney Wittig, a fourth-year forward on the women's hockey team, was the first Division III athlete to be drafted into the NWHL.

Courtney Wittig, a fourth-year forward on the women's hockey team, was the first Division III athlete to be drafted into the NWHL.

Photo by Gabbie Henn

Courtney Wittig, a fourth-year forward on the women's hockey team, was the first Division III athlete to be drafted into the NWHL.

Photo by Gabbie Henn

Photo by Gabbie Henn

Courtney Wittig, a fourth-year forward on the women's hockey team, was the first Division III athlete to be drafted into the NWHL.

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Courtney Wittig, an athlete of UW-Eau Claire women’s hockey team, has earned 2019 WIAC Player of the Year and became the first Division III player to be drafted into the NWHL.

Wittig, a fourth-year forward from Green Bay, said earning the WIAC player of the year award was exciting but that the award belongs to her coaches and teammates as well.

“WIAC player of the year award was sure exciting to get, but I would not say it is an individual award,” Wittig said. “I could not have done it without my teammates and coaches.”

Wittig said her teammates inspire her.

“All my teammates over the years of playing inspired me,” Wittig said. “Every teammate brings a different element to the team and by putting them all together they inspire everyone and make the season the best one it could possibly be.”

UW-Eau Claire women’s hockey team Head Coach, Erik Strand, said Wittig greatly influences her teammates as well.

“When Courtney’s going, it definitely energizes the rest of our team,” Strand said. “She has a large impact on our team. When Courtney is on the ice there is nothing stopping her, she is able to make the hardest plays in hockey look easy.”

Not only was it exciting for Wittig to earn WIAC player of the year, she said it was a surprise.

“I was surprised to find out about winning WIAC player of the year,” Wittig said. “I was actually at home when I found out, my teammate actually tagged me in a tweet, then I saw it. I really did not know this was even an award.”

According the NCAA, Wittig was selected with the first pick in the third round, 11th overall, by the Metropolitan Riveters in the National Women’s Hockey League Draft on Dec. 20, 2018.  

While hockey has always been a passion of Wittig’s, she said she never thought about playing in the NWHL.

“Hockey started to become a passion when there was nothing more I wanted to do than go to the rink to play hockey,” Wittig said. “The thought of going into the NWHL never really crossed my mind though, until my coach brought it up to me. Now that it has happened, there is a lot to think about to which we (my family and I) had not made a decision yet.”

Regardless of whether or not Wittig chooses to play in the NWHL, Strand said it’s an honor to have coached Wittig.

“To coach the first ever Division III hockey player drafted into the NWHL is such an honor,” Strand said. “It speaks volumes about what kind of player Courtney is.”

Strand described Wittig as competitive, driven and an excellent shot.

“I think she influences us with her competitiveness,” Strand said. “She wants to win regardless of what she is competing at. She’s very driven to have success, she has deceptive speed and an excellent shot.”

Wittig was able to score the final goal in the last fifteen seconds of the NCAA Division III Quarterfinal against the University of St. Thomas on March 9. However, it was not enough to win. The Blugolds fell to the Tommies by a score of 4-3.

The loss ended the Blugolds season, but they finished with a record of 21-6-2. This marked the third year in a row that the Blugolds set the school record for wins in a season.

Wittig said her biggest goal used to be to win a national championship, but now that her college career has ended, she hopes future Blugolds get to win the title themselves.

“With losing at nationals last weekend, my goal used to be to win a national championship,” Wittig said. “Now that my career is over, my goal is to see the program grow and become stronger. I wish the best of luck to the Blugolds next year and I hope they bring home a national championship title.”

Wittig also hopes to maintain the friendships she’s made playing for UW-Eau Claire women’s hockey team.

“UWEC women’s team is unique because I had built a strong relationship with these girls,” Wittig said. “I hope to keep the friendships I have made throughout my hockey career last a lifetime.”  

Wittig said her success as an athlete is all because of her teammates and coaches.

“I attribute my success as an athlete to all the teammates and coaches that I grew up with playing hockey,” Wittig said. “They had pushed me to be the athlete I am.”

Wittig went on to say she was grateful to Strand as well.

“I am happy he saw something in me and willing to take me in to be part of the program,” Wittig said. “He truly made me the player I am today. The love he has for the sport of hockey is inspiring enough to make one love the game even more.”

Walleser can be reached at [email protected]

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