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Ahead of Syracuse’s game against Stony Brook on Sunday, all players warmed up in shooting shirts with Katie Rowan Thomson and the No. 21 embroidered onto them.
In the pregame ceremony, the Orange lifted and retired Rowan Thomson’s number in the Carrier Dome rafters, placing her jersey directly to the right of her former coach Gary Gait’s No. 22, which was also retired on Sunday. Rowan Thomson became the second SU female athlete to have her jersey retired after Felisha Legette-Jack a few months earlier.
“I hope this is just the beginning of women and female athletes getting recognized in this way not only at Syracuse but across the country in different institutions,” Rowan Thomson said.
Following a four-year career from 2006-09, Rowan Thomson recorded the most points (396) in program history, helped Syracuse reach its first Final Four in 2008 and win its first NCAA Tournament game in 2007. She was a three-time first-team All-American and two-time Big East Attacker of the Year with the Orange, and she is now the head coach of UAlbany’s women’s lacrosse team.
No. 21 wasn’t always her number, though. At Bethlehem Central (N.Y.) Senior High School, Rowan Thomson wore No. 20, and No. 11 was always her preferred number since her birthday falls on April 11. There wasn’t a “huge reason” why she wore No. 21, she said, but she combined No. 20 and No. 11 to make it.
“It was just one of the numbers available when I got to Syracuse,” Rowan Thomson said. “I kind of just put it together and 21 was available, and I just took it.”
Since Rowan Thomson graduated in 2009, only two other Syracuse players have worn the number — current head coach Kayla Treanor and former goalkeeper Asa Goldstock. Both Goldstock and Treanor are from Niskayuna, about 30 minutes from Bethlehem Central, and Treanor said she admired Rowan Thomson since she was still in high school.
“(Rowan Thomson) choosing to go to Syracuse was really big and put Syracuse on the map for me,” Treanor said.
During Treanor’s recruiting process, Rowan Thomson was an assistant coach under Gait, who Rowan Thomson said “changed the game” for her. Rowan Thomson asked Treanor to be her successor in wearing No. 21, and Treanor went on to score the program’s most goals (260) with her 393 points being just three shy of Rowan Thomson’s mark.
“She is the reason that I wore No. 21 here at Syracuse as well, following her legacy and her footsteps,” Treanor said.
Current Syracuse attack Emily Hawryschuk said Rowan Thomson’s name is one that you know in the lacrosse world. Hawryschuk said she admired Rowan Thomson, and Rowan Thomson helped recruit her, though Rowan Thomson left her assistant coaching role at Syracuse the season before Hawryschuk arrived.
While playing at SU, Rowan Thompson had an ability to see the plays developing before they even happened, former SU player Bridget Quinn said. Rowan Thomson also played basketball growing up, and the crossover between the two sports facilitated her vision and sports IQ, Rowan Thomson said.
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In games when defenses began to successfully defend the play Syracuse was running, Rowan Thomson would call an audible, sometimes telling Quinn to go set a pick instead of the original play to set Rowan Thomson up for a goal-scoring opportunity. Other times, it was the opposite, where Rowan Thomson told Quinn to round the crease instead of setting the pick and Rowan Thomson would find Quinn or another teammate for a score. Her 164 assists are also the program’s best.
“She’s just a huge triple threat of a person and as a player she can control the ball and pretty much manipulate any type of play to work,” former SU player Melissa Gyllenborg said. “You always knew once she got the ball, she was going to go to work and do it for everyone.”
In a game against Northwestern, the Wildcats decided to faceguard Rowan Thomson. Faceguarding wasn’t a common defensive tactic at the time, Quinn said, but it never got “under the skin” of Rowan Thomson. Instead, she would call over a teammate for a screen or set up other opportunities by setting screens for them.
“As a defender you’re trying to make her go the way you want her to go,” Quinn said. “If you’re guarding Rowan, then you’re going where she wants you to go. She was not moving.”
Besides Syracuse, Rowan Thompson was also an integral member of the U.S. National Team. She recorded the most points at World Cups between the 2009 and 2013 tournaments with 69 total points and holds the record for most goals (8) in one game. Her 35 national team assists are also the U.S.’ most, and in 2009 when the U.S. earned gold, Rowan Thomson notched 35 points in the tournament.
“She wasn’t there for the glory. She really was the ultimate team player,” Gyllenborg said. “She’s one of those people where when you think of her, you only think of greatness.”
The post Katie Rowan Thomson’s jersey retirement reflects her decorated career at SU appeared first on The Daily Orange.