September 28, 2015

Kelsey Graham is named a finalist for NCAA Woman of the Year

More news about: Wheaton (Ill.) women's team

By Christan Shirk

On Friday, September 25 the NCAA announced their nine finalists, three from each Division, for the 2015 NCAA Woman of the Year award and one of the former Division III student-athletes named was Kelsey Graham. In early September the standout goalkeeper for Wheaton (Ill.) was one of two Division III soccer players and ten Division III athletes overall to be among the Top 30 honorees for the award.  Those honorees were selected from the 51 conference and independent honorees representing all forty-four Division III conferences. A total of 180 Division III student-athletes were nominated by their schools.

Photo: Michael Hudson Photography click image to open full-size 

Across all three divisions there were a total of 480 nominees and 147 conference and independent honorees from which the committee selected the top ten from each division. For the 2015 award, nominees were required to have completed their intercollegiate athletic eligibility during the 2014-15 school year and have graduated by the end of the 2015 summer term with a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of at least 2.50. Candidates were graded in the areas of service and leadership, academic achievement, and athletic excellence as well as their personal statement of no more than 200 words.

As a senior, Kelsey Graham was the nation's best shot-stopper with a .944 save pct.
Photo: Michael Hudson Photography

As a senior, Kelsey Graham helped Wheaton(Ill.) to an record that included a CCIW title and appearance in the NCAA tournament. Graham's incredible .944 save percentage led the nation and resulted in a personal 0.28 GAA that ranked fifth in the nation. At one point the team captain went 588 minutes across seven games without conceding a goal. She shutout Washington U. and Illinois Wesleyan, a pair of ranked teams, for 110 minutes in scoreless draws, makig nine saves in each contest.  A four-year starter for the Thunder, Graham elevated her game as a senior and was rewarded with honors: All-CCIW first team, NSCAA All-Central Region first team, and All-America first team and Goalkeeper of the Year.

Graham also excelled in the classroom, graduating with a 3.64 cumulative GPA and being named to the CCIW Academic All-Conference Team all four years at Wheaton. Additionally, the dual Spanish and Christian Education major earned a Second Team CoSIDA Academic All-District selection. Beyond athletic and academic accomplishments, Graham was also active in ministry and community service. During her time at Wheaton, she served as a discipleship small group leader within the women's soccer team and as a Sunday School teacher and missions department intern in two local churches. She volunteered in the Chicago Eagles' soccer ministry as an assistant coach for the middle-school youth. Graham participated in the college's on-going student-led Honduras Project, traveling to a Honduran village with other students to install a gravity-fed water system  She also volunteered at a mobile food pantry and with Feed My Starving Children, a non-proft organization that packages meals specially formulated for malnourished children around the world.

Kelsey Graham (Wheaton, Ill. '15)
Photos: Michael Hudson Photography

Graham's 200-word personal statement, which is 16% of the selection criteria for the award, included the following:

As I leave Wheaton, I am heading to South Africa to use soccer as a tool to improve the lives of others, teaching them leadership and life skills while showing them the love of God. My ability to do this is much greater because of the lessons I have learned through this program. Thank you to Wheaton College and the NCAA for helping me to realize the potential this simple sport has in changing lives, as it has already changed mine.

Four days after graduation from Wheaton College in May, Graham boarded a flight to Cape Town, South Africa to start a one-yer internship with East Mountain, an organization dedicated to developing Christian leaders for global missional service. She's living in the city of Stellenbosh near Cape Town and, as part of her internship, is serving with training4changeS, an organization that uses futsal to build holistic mentoring relationships with athletes and to train coaches for holistic mentoring. Graham's role within the five-year old organization is a perfect match with two of her career passions: goalkeeping and curriculum development.  She is training their coaches in goalkeeper training and helping the staff develop their curriculum, activities and lesson plans for use at soccer camps and training session for coaches. She also gets to interact with and train children where lessons about respect, love, discipline and responsibility are just as important as those about skills, techniques, and strategies. You can follow Graham's first hand account of her experiences on her blog, kelseyonamission.

Graham's name along with the other eight finalists has been forwarded the NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics (CWA) who will choose the winner. The Top 30 honorees will be recognized and the 2015 NCAA Woman of the Year winner will be announced at the annual awards dinner and ceremony to be held in Indianapolis on Sunday, October 18. Only four Division III student-athletes have won the award in its 24-year history and only once—just last year—has a soccer player from any division received the honor. More information on the NCAA Woman of the Year award can be found below.



NCAA Woman of the Year Award

click image to open full-size



  • NCAA member colleges and universities nominate their top graduating female student-athlete (March to mid-May).
  • Conference select up to two women from the nominees to represent the conference (late June).
  • The Woman of the Year selection committee selects the top 30 honorees–10 from each division (early September).
  • The selection committee determines the top three in each division; announces the top nine finalists (late September).
  • The NCAA Committee on Women’s Athletics votes from among the finalists to determine the NCAA Woman of the Year.
  • The top 30 honorees are honored and the NCAA Woman of the Year winner is announced at the annual awards dinner and ceremony (mid-October).


  • Nominee must have completed intercollegiate eligibility in her primary sport by the end of the 2014-15* competitive season and received her undergraduate degree no later than the summer 2015* term (* - for the 2015 award).
  • Nominee must have a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 2.500 (4.000 scale).

Selection Criteria

  • Service and Leadership - maximum 5 pts (28%)
  • Based on the nominee's involvement in campus and community activities and organizations.

  • Academic Achievement - maximum 5 pts (28%)
  • Based on cumulative GPA as follows:
    3.600 - 4.000 5 pts.
    3.300 - 3.599 4 pts.
    3.000 - 3.299 3 pts.
    2.750 - 2.999 2 pts.
    2.500 - 2.749 1 pt.
  • Athletics Excellence - maximum 5 pts (28%)
  • Based on individual honors and team/individual finish as follows:
    Team champion, 1st Team All-American, member of Olympic team,
    or top-three finish in individual sport at NCAA championship
    5 pts.
    All-American other than first team 4 pts.
    All-Region, 1st Team All-Conference, team/individual conference
    champion or multisport letter-winner
    3 pts.
    Varsity letter-winner or all-conference honors other than first team 2 pts.
  • Personal Statement - maximum 3 pts (16%)
  • Based on the nominee’s own description, in 200 words or less, of how her community service and experiences as a scholar, an athlete, and a leader on her campus and in her community have influenced her life and shaped the person she is today.


Comments or feedback for the author?  E-mail Christan Shirk.

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