Dec. 21 marked a first at Atlantic Coast High School when 2017 graduate and current West Virginia soccer player Danielle Gordon became the first ever Stingray to have her jersey number retired.
The first jersey number retired in any sport in Atlantic Coast's history.
"I was really touched because I just thought I came out here to have fun," Gordon, back home for the holidays, said at a recent Stingrays' practice. "I never would've expected that my time here would've created such an impact."
At halftime of the Stingrays' senior game, the players formed a tunnel for Danielle, her parents and younger sister, Reese, a current freshman on the Atlantic Coast team. Gordon was then presented her jersey, framed and adorned with the various accomplishments she achieved over her four-year career.
"When I graduated in 2017, Coach Kenny [Mukasa] said 'no one's gonna wear it anymore.' So I thought, 'alright, no one's gonna wear it for a few years. Then they'll put it back into [circulation],'" Gordon explained. "When I came back over the summer, Coach Kenny was like 'we're gonna retire it.' I was like '...what do you mean you're gonna retire it?'"
"There's now more soccer fans at Atlantic Coast all because of -- what I call -- the 'Danielle Gordon Effect,'" Mukasa said. "She definitely changed the program for us ... she's gonna be remembered for a long time."
And Danielle has no bigger fan than her dad, Dana Gordon.
"It was really cool for him to be there at that big moment. Just because he wasn't able to be there for the first two years of big moments," Danielle explained.
That's because Dana Gordon, a 29-year veteran in the Navy, lived away from his family and Jacksonville for a five-year period, stretching between Danielle's sixth-grade and 10th-grade years.
But he was always supporting from afar -- even flying across the country for Danielle's national tournaments.
"I remember a couple years, he would send emails when Danielle was playing. Letting us know he's supporting us, " Mukasa said.
It was a challenge for Dana emotionally, but not uprooting his family allowed for Danielle's soccer career to blossom, eventually leading to a host of Division I opportunities.
"That would not have happened with her moving around and doing the things we had to do," Dana said. "So for me, it was worth the sacrifice of me moving, them staying here."
But now that he's back, Dana rarely misses a game.
And now, he really won't be missing any games.
Capt Dana Gordon retired from the Navy one week exactly prior to Danielle's jersey retirement.
"It was actually pretty cool for both of us to "retire" and close off some part of our lives together," Danielle said.
But the bond they formed over the game of soccer -- a love that's taken them across the United States and all the way to Germany for the 2011 World Cup -- will never end.
"It means a lot to all of us," Danielle reflected. "It's something we've all been able to bond over and enjoy together."