Julie Williamson’s Field Hockey Jersey Retirement is Way More than Just a Number on a Wall
Syracuse athletics has had quite the track record for producing some of the nation's top athletes, and for their success, their numbers lay high above the JMA Wireless Dome. But up to last year, there were no female athletes honored in the rafters.
That changed last December when former Syracuse women's basketball great and now head coach Felisha Legette-Jack and women's lacrosse legend Katie Rowan-Thompson got their numbers retired for their respective programs. But still, no female athlete who played their games outside of the Dome has received that same recognition. Next Sunday, however, that is going to change.
Julie Williamson will be the first female athlete to get her number retired outside the Dome. The field hockey standout, who started for Syracuse from 1991-1994, will have her number 9 forever enshrined at J.S. Coyne Stadium, an honor she says she never saw coming.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” Williamson said, “I’m totally just super pumped to be able to go up there, see my teammates, see everybody, and to be the first I’m just blown away.”
As a player, Williamson was a two-time first-team Big East selection, the 1994 Big East player of the year, and the first Syracuse player ever to compete on the United States women's national team. When she played her final game for the Orange in 1994, she walked off the field as the program's leader in points. But the All-American never played just to fill up the box score and rack up the accolades.
“I don’t think I’ve seen any award as something that I played for, I never played for the honors, let's put it that way. I played because I loved the game, the honors were just like an extra thing that came with it,” Williamson said.
However, the honor of being the first-ever field hockey athlete at Syracuse to get their number retired is not just an “extra thing.” It means just as much to Williamson as it does to the Syracuse program. A message SU head coach Ange Bradley knows to be true.
“For the work that the women before us have done, it is really special to see one of our own be honored,” Bradley said “I am very proud about that accomplishment that field hockey gets to have an opportunity to have somebody represent us.”
Williamson doesn’t just want to represent the field hockey program, she wants to represent more recognition in women's sports and for female athletes.
“Just like our male counterparts, we are working hard, we are putting in the daily work ethic, we are in the grind, trying to hone our craft and become the best player you can be. But, I hope what it does is just help recognize the importance that athletics have in every life, not just in a particular sport, or particular gender,” Williamson said.
This very mindset has become an inspiration for current Syracuse field hockey stars, like midfielder Sam Swart.
“I think having another female athlete up in the rafters is absolutely amazing and it makes young women like me feel honestly inspired,” Swart said.
So, next Sunday is a day of recognition. Not just for Julie Williamson, but for women's sports, the sport of field hockey, and the Syracuse field hockey program. Although Williamson never planned it like this, to have her number be the first to receive recognition, she wouldn’t want to represent the school she chose to attend more than 30 years ago any other way.
“While it wasn’t why I played the sport to have tremendous honors, you can’t help but to feel tremendous pride in your heart for the Univeristy and your teammates and your coaches, and the reaction of my seventeen-year-old reminded me this is pretty big,” Williamson said.
Syracuse and Cornell face-off at 2 pm on Sunday, October 9, at 2:00 PM from J.S. Coyne Stadium.