It was just plain funny at the time—a needlepoint sweater worn to every game by George Sullivan, father of senior soccer player Meghan Sullivan ’99. The gloriously homely garment depicted an all-embracing soccer game. Splayed out across every inch, the scene was replete with faceless players, a referee, and fans on the sidelines. Somehow it must have worked, because the team went on to win the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) championship that year.
The sweater was subject to some good-natured ribbing, especially from first-year player Dana Grandmaison-Gilligan ’02. At the end of the season, George thought it just seemed right to pass it along to her.
“I never realized it would start a tradition,” he says of the size XXXL sweater.
Now a tangible team legacy, decades of players have worn it, seen it, or hung it in their rooms. They wear it on campus and on long road trips. It even made an appearance during the team’s trip to Spain to watch Barcelona Femenía play a few years back.
Magic happens on the field—and it’s not all because of the sweater.
“The team is built on five core values: hard work, competitiveness, teamwork, mental toughness, and something we call ‘transformation,’ which is enjoying the journey,” says Gail Murphy, head women’s soccer coach.
“Our team has the ability to seriously compete and have fun together, and they certainly do. They respect each other, they work hard together, and they are fully invested in our program. I mean, these are some of their lifelong friends.”
Grandmaison-Gilligan, who lives across the street from campus, gets to wear the sweater when she comes to games. It still evokes “that feeling of pride I have for the program and the connectedness each team, regardless of generation, has to our entire Denison women’s soccer family.”
Sweater caretaker Logan Agin ’20 just passed the sweater on to Molly Stewart ’23. “This sweater is about loving this team and the people on it,” Agin says. “It’s about loving the core values that this team has always stood for. It is about loving this crazy, stupid, frustrating, amazing game that brought you to this team, because when you love something so much you cannot help but fight for it. You cannot help but give your heart and soul to this team and everyone who is a part of it.”