In the zone

By Ann Killion

First Julie Johnston ’14 was freshman of the year. Then All-American. Now the Under-20 World Cup is calling.
Midfield menace: Julie Johnston is headed for the Under-20 Women's World Cup in August. Photo by Denis Concordel

When Julie Johnston '14 was 7 years old, her mother turned on the television and told her to come watch. With that simple act, Johnston—along with more than 40 million other Americans—participated in one of the biggest stories in the history of women’s sports. She was part of the unprecedented television audience that saw the U.S. women’s soccer team defeat China in the 1999 Women’s World Cup.

When Brandi Chastain ’91 buried the winning penalty kick, though, Johnston never imagined that more than a decade later she’d be following in Chastain’s footsteps. “I didn’t really know much about Santa Clara,” Johnston says. “When I came on my recruiting visit and met Brandi, it seemed insane.”

Johnston, a rising junior, is hoping to compete this summer in the U-20 World Cup in Japan, which begins Aug. 19. She is the latest Bronco to continue the tradition of raising Santa Clara’s profile while playing for the U.S. national team program, a legacy that began with Chastain back in 1989.

As a teenager in Phoenix, playing for the Gilbert Soccer Club, Johnston knew she wanted to play Division I soccer. She knew she wanted to play for a top-25 program and have a shot at both a national title and a spot in the national team pool. But Johnston didn’t know that Santa Clara was the perfect fit until she arrived on the Mission Campus for her recruiting visit.

“Literally, from the second I got here, I felt comfortable,” Johnston says. “I called my mom and told her, ‘I think this is it.’ I told Jerry that I was ready to commit right now.”

"We have a reputation from the past to uphold. People left their sweat and tears on the field, and I don’t want to let them down."

Johnston was named the WCC freshman of the year after her first season. Last season, she scored a team-high nine goals, was a first-team All-American, and was a semifinalist for the Hermann Trophy, awarded to the top female player of the year.
 

So far, so close

Johnston feels that—thanks to her experience at Santa Clara—her big dreams are getting closer to reality. “When I was young, players like Brandi and Mia Hamm seemed so far away,” Johnston says. “But this new generation of national team players isn’t that far away. I played against Alex Morgan at Cal last year. Sydney Leroux played on my sister’s team. The national team is more of a reality, an expectation that you can set for yourself and have it be a possibility.”

Johnston is optimistic that the Broncos—who finished ranked 11th in the nation last season—can land a 24th NCAA appearance next fall and make a serious push to get back to the College Cup.

The one downside for Johnston, if she makes the U-20 World Cup squad: She may miss several of the early season games.

In her two years at Santa Clara, with tutors like Chastain, Danielle Slaton ’02, and other former Bronco stars, Johnston has learned to embrace the school’s rich legacy. She is driven by the desire to uphold Santa Clara’s tradition.

“I talk to people who go to other schools and the word tradition isn’t even there,” she said. “But we have a reputation from the past to uphold. People left their sweat and tears on the field, and I don’t want to let them down.”

 

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