By Ben Everett | Sports Editor
Baylor soccer senior midfielder Julie James was named a Senior CLASS Award finalist on Wednesday by the Senior CLASS organization.
James, a Business Fellows, entrepreneurship and economics triple major from Fairview, is a four-year starter for the Bears and is the first Baylor soccer player and one of thirty student-athletes in women’s Division I soccer to be named a finalist for the Senior CLASS Award which stands for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School.
In order to be eligible for the award, each student-athlete must be an NCAA Division I senior and “have notable achievements in four areas of excellence: community, classroom, character and competition,” according to the Senior CLASS Award press release.
Baylor head coach Paul Jobson said James is the clear-cut leader of the team and can take over a game at any time.
“Julie’s definitely a leader in every sense of the word,” Jobson said. “When the team needs anything, she’s willing to step up and do it. Carrying the team on her back, I hate to say it’s a stretch, but she’d do it. We’re in South Florida and we’re down a couple goals; you just see her everywhere all of sudden trying to fix things and make things happen and pump people up.”
James earned All-Big 12 First Team honors in both her sophomore and junior seasons, as well as earning Academic All-Big 12 honors in each of her first three seasons at Baylor.
Sophomore goalkeeper Jennifer Wandt said James’ ability to play above the ground is crucial to the team’s success, but also her off-the-field leadership sets her apart.
“Everything,” Wandt said, when asked what James brings to the team. “Her leadership on and off the field. She’s the first one to bring us together when we’re down off the field and on the field. Obviously, her game in the air is unmatched. That helps us so much. She’s also helping bring up the younger players with her. Our whole team is getting better in the air and she’s a big reason for that.”
James already has a career-high five goals this season to lead the team, as well as a team-high 11 points. James has 28 shots and 16 shots on goal for 17.9 percent shooting and a 57.1 percent shooting on goal. James is second on the team after senior defender Sarah King, with 853 minutes logged for an average of 85.3 minutes per game this season. Her career-high in goals for a single game came on Sept. 2 against Nebraska when she scored two goals to lead the Bears to a dominant 6-0 win at Betty Lou Mays Soccer Field.
Jobson said James is the perfect leader at midfielder because she helps connect everyone on the field.
“A big piece of what we’re able to do is because of her leadership,” Jobson said. “Her position on the field makes that even more valuable. She’s kind of the connecting between the back and the front.”
According to the press release, the award “focuses on the total student-athlete and encourages students to use their platform in athletics to make a positive impact as leaders in their communities.”
James regularly serves as a volunteer in the Waco community and beyond. She recently went on a mission trip to Costa Rica as well as visited a children’s cancer hospital with her teammates. Additionally, she volunteers with Full Armor, which is an organization that promotes Christian values and leadership skills among children in her hometown of Fairview.
Midway through the season, the finalists will be narrowed down to a final ballot of 10. Voting will then take place among coaches, media and fans and the winners of the award will be announced during the 2018 NCAA Women’s College Cup championship in December.
James is one of four finalists from the Big 12 Conference. Texas midfielder Katie Glenn and West Virginia defenders Easther Mayi Kith and Bianca St. Georges also made the cut.
The Bears are back in action this weekend as they take on No. 11-ranked Texas at 7 p.m. Friday in Austin to kick off their Big 12 Conference schedule.