Courtnie Williamson shouted words of encouragement to her UNC teammates from the sidelines of the 2018 NCAA field hockey national championship game. She had played just 34 minutes off the bench by the final whistle, a normal occurrence for a player who only started four games that season.
“I definitely contributed more in practice and being loud on the bench,” Williamson said of her national championship performance. “I think my off-the-field contribution during the national championship game was bigger than my on-the-field one.”
One year later, Williamson was a full-time starter for the Tar Heels in her fourth year with the team. Now a graduate student playing in her fifth year of eligibility, her voice as the team captain has become even louder as the team strives for a third consecutive ACC Championship in light of the national championship cancellation due to COVID-19.
Finding her sport
Williamson grew up in Radnor, Pennsylvania, and picked up field hockey late in high school at The Episcopal Academy. She decided to join the WC Eagles club team and immediately fell in love with the sport.
“I love how fast paced the game is,” Williamson said. “I love that it’s a tough girl sport. It’s super physical, and it never really stops.”
From the early stages of her athletic career, Williamson knew she wanted to play in college. She quickly set her sights on North Carolina, attracted to the field hockey dynasty that head coach Karen Shelton built, the Kenan-Flagler Business School and the warm weather down South.
“Coach Shelton and I had a couple of conversations, I came down to visit and absolutely fell in love with UNC and the team,” she said.
Coming into her first year in Chapel Hill in 2016 as a midfielder, Williamson had one goal in mind: to improve. Not fully developed as a player then, she redshirted her first season alongside much of her class, quickly learning the importance of making mistakes, asking questions and bettering each and every skill.