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Stickwork of Distinction

The University honors legendary Orange field hockey player Julie Williamson Sullivan with jersey retirement.
Landscape photo of a female athlete surrounded by family and friends, being celebrated on a field, flowers in her hand.

Syracuse University field hockey great Julie Williamson Sullivan ’95 (center) receives congratulations during her jersey retirement ceremony at J.S. Coyne Stadium in October. Photo courtesy of Todd Michalek/SU Athletics.

Julie Williamson Sullivan ’95 fondly remembers the first time she suited up in her Syracuse University field hockey uniform. “It was the coolest thing ever,” she says. “Whenever I put that No. 9 jersey on, I felt a tremendous deal of pride. It was a privilege to wear the uniform, an honor. I felt grateful to represent Syracuse on the field hockey field every time I had the opportunity to do so.”

Syracuse University recently recognized Sullivan as one of its all-time great student-athletes when it retired her No. 9 jersey and enshrined it at J.S. Coyne Stadium during a halftime ceremony in a game against Cornell University. Sullivan is the field hockey program’s first player to receive the honor, and the nationally ranked Orange celebrated her by donning “Williamson 9” jerseys during warmups and then collecting a 5-0 victory over the Big Red.

Whenever I put that No. 9 jersey on, I felt a tremendous deal of pride. It was a privilege to wear the uniform, an honor. I felt grateful to represent Syracuse on the field hockey field every time I had the opportunity to do so.

Julie Williamson Sullivan ’95

Sullivan arrived at Syracuse as a highly touted all-state player from Collingswood, New Jersey, and became the program’s first three-time All-American, first player selected for the U.S. Women’s National Team (1993) and first Big East Player of the Year (1994). In 1993, she helped lead the Orange to their first Big East tournament title, collecting the Most Outstanding Performer award, and their first NCAA tournament appearance and win. During her collegiate career (1991-94), Syracuse posted an overall record of 52-20-7. Sullivan, who handled duties as both a forward and offensive midfielder, closed out her career as the Orange’s all-time points leader (94) and is now seventh on the list. “I really enjoyed trying new things and always wanted to be better each day I had the opportunity to be on the field,” she says.

Landscape photo of Sullivan walking through a tunnel made by other athletes and their field hockey sticks.

The Orange field hockey team raises their sticks in honor of Sullivan, a three-time All-American. Photo courtesy of Todd Michalek/SU Athletics.

Sullivan fully embraced the Syracuse program, appreciating the leadership of Coach Kathleen Parker, who retired in 2006 after 29 seasons. She also valued the guidance of assistant coaches Terri Tipton and Peter Currie, who often dazzled her with their stickwork routines and tricks in practice, inspiring her to up her game. “Coach Parker always had a philosophy that we performed to our potential, enjoyed recognizing our potential and had fun,” she says. “She grounded us in not just being solid players, but what was paramount to everything she ever did on the field hockey field was to make sure that we were solid women.”

Following graduation, Sullivan—who was also a top-flight high school lacrosse player—entered the coaching ranks as an assistant coach for field hockey and lacrosse at Cornell and has enjoyed coaching ever since. Today, she is looking forward to her ninth season as the coach of the Haddon Township High School girls’ varsity lacrosse program in New Jersey, which she helped start and has led to a sectional title.

Group photo of Sullivan, her family and the Syracuse field hockey team, all dressed in Syracuse colors.

Sullivan joins the 2022 Orange field hockey team in celebration of her jersey retirement. Photo courtesy of Todd Michalek/SU Athletics.

Before her recent trip to Syracuse, Sullivan joined us for a conversation about her playing days and coaching career.

How does it feel to be the first Syracuse University field hockey player to have your jersey retired?

I’m incredibly honored, humbled and grateful. And I’m so excited to share the honor with so many people. I think of the many players along the way who were great friends and teammates, my coaches, my family and the people of Syracuse.

As an elite field hockey player, what motivated you on a daily basis?

The love of the game, and the ability to learn new things and try to achieve new goals. I had such faith in Coach Parker, what she believed and what she was developing. I wanted to be part of that—to help and grow a program and to have an opportunity.

Looking back on your time at Syracuse, what stands out the most?

My fondest memories are of the people. I think whatever your endeavors are in life, the people you’re surrounded by really matter. I was fortunate to be surrounded by tremendous teammates, coaches and support staff—the trainers, the equipment managers, the sports information people—but also my friends. I had many friends not involved in athletics who were just good people.

My fondest memories are of the people. I think whatever your endeavors are in life, the people you’re surrounded by really matter.

Julie Williamson Sullivan ’95

How did your experience at Syracuse influence your life and contribute to your success?

Watching the impact that Coach Parker and the other coaches were able to have on student-athletes daily really influenced me. Also, the enjoyment I had each day at the field. It was never a chore for me to be at practice. It was always the highlight of my day—everything from how we would get ready for practice in the locker room, to being on the field and doing our warmup, to closing down practice with corner drills. When I had the opportunity to see what it was like to be on the other side in the coaching position at Cornell, I really enjoyed passing on some of what I learned, but also being able to form relationships with athletes, learn from the athletes, and strategize together.

How do you motivate your players, and what do you want to instill in them?

I think one of the best ways to motivate your players is to get to know them—find out a little about them and what they enjoy, and to be consistent, fair and set expectations for a team. I always want to instill the power of choice they have every single day when they come to practice, to have direct control over the effort they give. I also want them to have fun. I’m going back to Coach Parker on that one—to help players achieve their potential and to have fun each day when they show up.

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