MARQUETTE - Many Northern Michigan University fans discarded their regular green and gold attire Tuesday night, when Northern hockey hosted Michigan Tech University at the Berry Events Center.
Instead, hundreds of spectators wore purple in honor of Arianna "Anna" Alioto, an 18-year-old freshman and NMU soccer player who drowned in the Physical Education Instructional Facility pool Friday.
"It was her favorite color," said Cheyenne Cecchini, an NMU sophomore and teammate of Alioto's.
Fans fill the stands at the Berry Events Center at Northern Michigan University Tuesday wearing purple in honor of Arianna Alioto during the NMU versus Michigan Tech University hockey game. Purple was the favorite color of Alioto, who drowned in a university pool Friday. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
The NMU hockey team honored Alioto by wearing decals with a soccer ball graphic and an AA for her initials. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
The women's soccer team attended the hockey game Tuesday night, clad in soccer jerseys with purple ribbons pinned on.
The NMU hockey team also wore on the back of their helmets soccer ball decals with Alioto's initials in purple.
NMU head hockey coach Walt Kyle said it was good to see purple in the crowd Tuesday.
"I got an opportunity to talk to (head soccer coach) Matt Granstrand tonight. I know how difficult it is for him. I can't imagine it, just for everyone," Kyle said during a press conference after the game. "We didn't need to feel bad tonight. We needed to feel good. I thought for the whole university, the whole community, it was a great thing."
And though purple was the color Tuesday on Northern's campus, it was also the color of Wildcats everywhere.
A Facebook page was created to help spread the word about wearing purple for Alioto, and people from all across the country - Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Wisconsin - posted to say they'd be in purple on Tuesday.
Members of the MTU soccer team posted a picture of themselves in purple. Parents of current Northern students, Northern graduates and people who had no affiliation with the university, but had heard of Alioto's death all posted saying they'd be wearing purple.
Inmelda Rangel, a junior at Michigan Tech, came to Marquette to cheer on the Huskies Tuesday night, wearing a purple head scarf in honor of Alioto.
"We heard that a student had passed away at Northern and, even though we are rivals, there is no reason to be mean. It's still a life and that needs to be respected and honored," Rangel said.
Alioto's death is also affecting many people in her hometown of Columbia, Mo.
Marc VanDover, Alioto's high school soccer coach, said he's known the Alioto family for years.
"She's the kind of kid that always had a ball at her foot. She grew up that way. First time I ever saw her, she was about 8 years old, she was juggling a ball, had this great attitude," VanDover said. "A few years later, she grew up, she really never outgrew that grin that she had as an 8-year-old. She brought that with her.
"She's the kind of kid that absolutely everybody loved her," VanDover said. "Everybody on the team would do anything for Anna. She was just that kind of kid."
Alioto drowned in the PEIF pool some time between 5 and 5:35 p.m. Friday, according to NMU Public Safety and Police Services Director Michael Bath. The soccer team had held a team practice in the pool from 4 to 5 p.m. Alioto was seen by herself in the lap pool at about 5:35 p.m. by another Northern student working out in area overlooking the pool.
Bath said Monday during a press conference it was not yet clear what time everyone left the pool area, and how Alioto came to be alone in the water.
Alioto's funeral is set to take place Saturday in Columbia, Mo.
NMU Communications and Marketing Director Cindy Paavola said Northern's athletic department is currently working with the NCAA to send the soccer team to Missouri to attend the service. The university and private donors are paying expenses related to the trip.
Editor's note: Mining Journal sports editor Matt Wellens and photographer Matt Keiser contributed to this report.