When Glamour magazine named Julie Johnston ’14 as the sole athlete on its annual list of the top 10 college women last April, the soccer midfielder joined an illustrious group of elite performers stretching back 56 years. Among them: inventors, activists, and scientists.
Johnston wondered if she deserved to be included. But it takes only a glance at the senior’s résumé to see she has otherworldly talent. SCU Head Coach Jerry Smith put it in terms even the most casual sports fan could grasp: “It’s like watching LeBron play basketball,” he told the magazine. “She runs the game.”
A star since she arrived at SCU, Johnston was the West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year in 2010. She’s a two-time, first-team All-American. Last year, she repeated as the Broncos’ top goal scorer while leading the team to the second round of the NCAA tournament, despite missing seven games due to international duties.
WEARING THE COLORS
Last year, Johnston captained the U.S. national team to victory in the Under-20 World Cup in Japan, leading the defense with a performance that earned her the Bronze Ball as the tournament’s third-best player. The fact that she was playing defense, positions usually overlooked for individual distinction, only made it more impressive.
“I relive that day over and over again,” Johnston said shortly after returning. “The moment the whistle blew I just dropped to my knees. I couldn’t believe that finally a dream had become reality.”
Her on-field heroics earned her U.S. Soccer’s Young Female Athlete of the Year honors. Then in February 2013, Johnston earned her first cap with the full U.S. Women’s National Team as a substitute against Scotland. In April, just a few days after her 21st birthday, she made her first start with the team, playing all 90 minutes in a win over the Netherlands.
Former national team star Brandi Chastain ’91, whose 1999 World Cup heroics are among Johnston’s earliest memories of top soccer, believes the Arizona native has the potential to perform at the highest level: “Her skills alone set her apart from the good players,” says Chastain, a volunteer assistant coach with the Broncos. “But her mental fortitude and vision for the game take her to the next level. If she continues on the way of hard work and attention to detail, she will be a force to be reckoned with.”
The Broncos are counting on that during her senior year. Unlike last year, the communication major should be available from the beginning of the season, leading a star-studded team that includes goal-scoring machine Morgan Marlborough ’14, a transfer who was Johnston’s teammate on the under-23 national team this spring.
Johnston, though, is nothing if not wise when it comes to her priorities. The star on the field is as intent on her journey as a student as she is on athletics: “I’ll be as proud to graduate as I would to win the World Cup,” she told Glamour.