September 4, 2015

D-III soccer represented among Top 30 honorees for NCAA Woman of the Year

By Christan Shirk

Top 30 honorees for the 2015 NCAA Woman of the Year: Kelsey Graham (Wheaton, Ill.) and Madeline Buckley (William Smith)
Photos: Michael Hudson Photography (l.); Kevin Colton / William Smith Athletics (r.)

Two graduated Division III women’s soccer players are among the Top 30 honorees for the 2015 NCAA Woman of the Year award. The selection committee’s announcement yesterday included the names of Madeline Buckley (William Smith) and Kelsey Graham (Wheaton, Ill.). The pair are joined by eight other Division III student-athletes who were selected from the 51 conference and independent honorees representing all 44 Division III conferences. A total of 180 Division III student-athletes were nominated by their schools.

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.

Later this month nine finalists—three from each division—will be named by the selection committee and 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.

Madeline Buckley, forward (William Smith '15)

Photo: Kevin Colton / William Smith Athletics

Madeline Buckley, a forward at William Smith, led the Herons and the Liberty League with 11 goals and 27 points during her senior campaign, netting four game-winning goals, second most in the conference. She helped lead William Smith to their eighth straight Liberty League regular season and tournament titles, going perfect in conference play. A unanimous first team All-Liberty League selection to add to all-conference honors the previous two years, she was named the league's Offensive Performer of the Year. The NSCAA would then bestow first team All-Region and third team All-American honors on Buckley.  She and her classmates finished their William Smith careers with a 73-7-6 four-year record (.884), logging the highest winning percentage by a graduating class and being part of four trips to the NCAA tournament including the 2013 national championship run.

Her excellence in the classroom also garnered Buckley All-Academic conference honors for the third time, culminating in her second CoSIDA Academic All-District selection and NSCAA Scholar All-American second team honors. The Critical Social Studies major graduated with a 3.48 cumulative GPA. Buckley was a three-year member of the William Smith Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and served as the student-representative on the Heron Society Board of Directors. But what is even more commendable is her activism off the field and out of the classroom.  As a senior Buckley was the team representative in William Smith’s partnership with Team IMPACT, a non-profit that works to improve the quality of life for children facing life-threatening illnesses by matching these courageous kids with college athletic teams and harnessing the power of teamwork. She is an active supporter of the B+ Foundation, an organization which honors the memory of a 14-year old athlete from her hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, and she has been a dedicated volunteer with the college's Geneva Horoes program that helps local middle and high school students with develop team-building and leadership skills. Her excellence and service did not go unnoticed as Buckley was selected the 2015 collegiate recipient of the Coach Wooden Citizenship Cup, often regarded as the highest award in college sports. Such an impression she made, William Smith College has established a new award in her honor, the Madeline Buckley Citizenship Award, to be given annually to a William Smith student-athlete who best displays character, teamwork and citizenship.

Kelsey Graham, goalkeeper (Wheaton, Ill. '15)

Photo: Michael Hudson Photography 2014 Goalkeeper of the Year, Kelsey Graham, helped Wheaton (Ill.) to a 18-2-2 last year 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 Graham 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, she 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 in addition to the aforementioned Goalkeeper of the Year selection.

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, travelling 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.



NCAA Woman of the Year Award

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  • 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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