OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Lehigh softball senior Julie Fernandez has been named one of ten finalists for the Lowe’s Senior CLASS award, after continuing to excel both on and off the field, it was announced Wednesday. Nationwide fan voting begins immediately to help determine the winner, which will be announced at the NCAA Women’s College World Series in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
An acronym for Celebrating Loyalty and Achievement for Staying in School®, the award honors senior student-athletes, who excel in four areas: community, classroom, character and competition.
"Julie Fernandez is an incredible young woman; her hard work and commitment to excellence definitely show up in the box score,” explained Lehigh head coach Fran Troyan. “What doesn't show up is just how strong she is as a human being; selfless, compassionate, caring, and always willing to help out a teammate, a classmate, a friend, or a family member. She is certainly most deserving of this national recognition."
Fernandez is one of ten finalists, along with standouts from softball powers such as California, Arizona State, Stanford, Florida, Alabama and Washington. She is the only finalist from the Patriot League.
The finalists were chosen by a media committee from the list of 20 candidates announced in February. Nationwide fan voting begins immediately to determine the winner. Fans are encouraged to vote via the Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award website through May 14. Fans can cast one vote per day. Fan votes will be combined with media and coaches votes to determine the winner.
Fernandez is Lehigh’s third Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award finalist in as many years after Marquis Hall from men’s basketball earned the distinction in 2010 and Jonathan Stumpf from men’s lacrosse was recognized last year.
A native of Moorpark, California, Fernandez is in the midst of another outstanding season for the Mountain Hawks. A four-year starter at first base, Fernandez leads the Mountain Hawks with a .429 batting average through 32 games. She already has 11 doubles and recently became Lehigh’s career leader in doubles, with 53. Fernandez ranks second on the Mountain Hawks in hits (42), home runs (three) and runs batted in (22). She is already a three-time All-Patriot League selection, a two-time All-Region selection and was the Patriot League’s Rookie of the Year in 2009 and its Player of the Year in 2010.
Fernandez has excelled in the classroom, posting a 3.33 grade point average in Lehigh’s rigorous Behavioral Neuroscience program, while minoring in Spanish. A multi-year member of the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll, Fernandez has also received numerous Lehigh Faculty Athletics Council Academic Awards for posting semester GPAs of 3.20 or better. Fernandez earned the 2011 Arthur Ashe, Jr. Sport Scholar Award (as named by Diverse Issues in Higher Education) while also garnering Lehigh University’s Class of 1904 Scholarship Award. Last spring, Fernandez was named to the inaugural Academic All-Patriot League softball team. She is currently applying to medical schools and aspires to become a pediatrician. She has spent time during the summer shadowing a pediatrician in Santa Monica, Calif., while also participating in research at UCLA Medical Center.
Fernandez is so well respected by her teammates that she was voted a captain prior to both her junior and senior seasons. Her on-field success did not come without overcoming hardship. As a freshman in 2009, Fernandez tore her ACL in a collision at first base in a season-ending loss to Florida in the NCAA Gainesville Regional Final. Fernandez persevered through the adversity and was back on the practice field well before the start of her sophomore season. In addition, Fernandez hit a blistering .442 during that sophomore season and was named Patriot League Player of the Year.
In addition to her softball captain duties, Fernandez has been heavily involved in Lehigh’s athletic department, as a Student-Athlete Mentor and as a member of the Lehigh Athletics Leadership Academy. In the Student-Athlete Mentor (SAM) program, Fernandez helped facilitate discussions for the Lehigh P.R.I.D.E. program and served as a resource providing guidance to Lehigh’s freshmen throughout the year. In the Leadership Academy, Fernandez graduated from the Emerging Leaders program, where she learned how to be an effective vocal and leader by example on her team and within the Lehigh community; and the Leadership Legacies program where she learned how to interact with coaches and teammates in order to effectively lead a team as a captain.
Fernandez has also been heavily involved in Lehigh’s award-winning community outreach C.O.A.C.H. (Community Outreach by Athletes who Care about Helping) program. She has been part of groups that visited local schools to talk to children about the importance of leadership, responsibility and education.
The C.O.A.C.H. program does numerous presentations to student groups in settings ranging from team meetings to school assemblies to sports banquets. They also run sports clinics with an educational theme, group outings to Lehigh athletic events and more. One special event, which Fernandez and the C.O.A.C.H. program have coordinated, is an annual Adopt-A-Family around the holidays. Each Lehigh Athletics team adopts an underprivileged family; they then raise money throughout the semester to purchase holiday presents for their adopted family. The initiative wraps up with an event where all of Lehigh’s student-athletes present the gifts to their adopted families. Last year, the Mountain Hawks raised nearly $30,000.
In the offseason Fernandez has volunteered her time as a hitting instructor for girls ages 14-18, teaching hitting technique through practice, drills and mental preparation.
Lowe’s, an official Corporate Partner of the NCAA, will announce the winner at the NCAA Women’s College World Series, May 31-June 6 in Oklahoma City.
The Mountain Hawks bring a six-game winning streak into Wednesday’s non-league doubleheader at Rider. Lehigh will resume Patriot League play against Bucknell with a four game series Saturday and Sunday at Kaufman Field.
Valerie Arioto, Pitcher/First Base, California
Katelyn Boyd, Shortstop, Arizona State
Mallory Duran-Sellers, Outfield, Southern Illinois
Julie Fernandez, First Base, Lehigh
Ashley Hansen, Shortstop, Stanford
Michelle Moultrie, Centerfield, Florida
Christi Orgeron, Utility, Louisiana
Cassie Reilly-Boccia, Outfield/First Base, Alabama
Stephanie Ricketts, Pitcher, Hawaii
Niki Williams, Utility, Washington