Jessica Vallotton can add earning a full-ride NCAA scholarship to her list of hockey accomplishments this season.
The 17-year-old member of the Westman Wildcats Midget AAA female hockey team has verbally committed to play for the University of Maine Black Bears on a full NCAA scholarship next season.
A 6-foot-0, 155-pound defenceman, Vallotton was also heavily recruited by Bemidji State University and RPI (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), but was sold on Maine after making a campus visit a couple of weeks ago. While she won’t officially sign her letter of intent until the early signing period begins on Nov. 14, she was happy to commit early to the Black Bears program.
"It definitely feels like a thousand pounds has been lifted off my shoulders for sure, so it feels good," said Vallotton, who was also named to Manitoba’s under-18 women’s hockey team last week. "I’ve always wanted to play at the highest level I could, so it’s great ... I can continue with my hockey career while getting an education."
Vallotton is one of two members of the Wildcats who have already committed to NCAA schools, with Brandon’s Ashleigh Brykaliuk slated to join the University of Minnesota-Duluth, while teammate Karissa Kirkup of Virden is currently weighing multiple scholarship offers.
Born in Glenboro but now living in Ninette, Vallotton has two goals and five points in seven games so far this season for the Wildcats, but is currently recovering from a separated shoulder that will likely keep her out of the lineup for a couple of weeks. While it was a difficult decision, Vallotton’s recent visit to the Orono, Maine campus clinched it for her.
"The coaches were awesome, the campus was good, too, and the girls were very welcoming to me," said Vallotton, who becomes the 17th Wildcat player to earn an NCAA hockey scholarship since the team’s inception in 2007.
In Maine, Vallotton will join Deloraine’s Jennifer More, a skilled second-year centre who is the first sophomore in team history to be named an alternate captain of the Black Bears.
Choosing a school early allows Vallotton to concentrate on her final year of high school at Killarney Collegiate and her final season with the Wildcats in the Manitoba Female Midget Hockey League, a league that has produced two of the last four Esso Cup national champions (Westman in 2009 and Pembina Valley in 2012).
"I can focus on this year now and then I don’t have to worry about next year," said Vallotton, who helped Manitoba win bronze at last year’s Canadian U-18 women’s hockey championship and will represent the province again at this year’s nationals from Nov. 7-11 in Dawson Creek, B.C. "We’re hoping to definitely win the province and have a good shot at Westerns and then hoping to do what P.V. did last year at nationals."