An Interview With Melissa Henderson

This season Melissa Henderson will look to capture a pair of prestigious honors in her senior season in South Bend. The highly touted Notre Dame forward was one of three finalists for the 2010 MAC Hermann Trophy last year and spearheaded her team to a national championship in impressive fashion.  Henderson spoke with AWK about the strength of this year’s squad, getting nominated for an ESPY, and her future aspirations.

On the Hunt For A Repeat

Notre Dame managed to ride a wave of momentum to the 2010 NCAA title last season. Did you always think you were on a championship caliber team?

Last year was an amazing ride and a great journey that my teammates and I were fortunate enough to experience. But the players that came before my class and the players that come after my class will, in my eyes, always be championship caliber teams. At the end of the day, we all have the same goal and that’s to win a national championship, not just for ourselves but for each other.


Your class could now become the first Notre Dame team to win two consecutive national titles. What’s the most important thing the team needs to do as it prepares for a title defense?

Honestly, I think the best thing we can do is to believe in one another and go out and just play. We have the chemistry, we have the passion, and we have the fight; we just need to keep our focus on one game at a time.


You’re now entering your senior year with the Fighting Irish. How has your role changed in the team?

I feel like my role is similar to everyone else’s — trying to make an impact to help our team reach its goal of another national championship. I know I’m probably speaking on behalf of our senior class, but we want to make sure that everyone knows that they are crucial to our success, starting with our freshmen all the way to us seniors.


What is one area of your game you’d like to focus on developing this season?

I think every area of my game could definitely use some work.


You were with the USWNT U-23’s this summer. What were the highlights of your time with the team?

I just loved the whole atmosphere. The team and coaching staff were phenomenal and I felt blessed to even have the opportunity to be there with all of them.


You’ve traveled the world with various U.S. youth teams. Is there one particular country or trip you’ll always remember with fondness?

The people over there were so loving and respectful.


Considering Notre Dame defeated North Carolina 4-1 in the third round of last season’s NCAA tournament, is the ND-UNC rivalry now fiercer than ever?

For as long as I can remember, there has always been a rivalry between Notre Dame and UNC. What happened last year is in the past. It’s a new year and thinking about who won last year, or the year before that, won’t help us this year. We aren’t focused on the rivalry, per se, but rather just playing our best to beat a team that’s in the way of us achieving our goal.


How did growing up playing youth soccer in Dallas help you prepare for your college soccer career?

The competitive soccer in Dallas is unreal. There are so many great teams and players that winning is easier said than done. I am so thankful to have been around such a competitive atmosphere.


Did you follow the Women’s World Cup and if so, what will be your lasting memory of it?

The World Cup was kind of a bittersweet feeling. I was sad that we had not won the whole thing, but at the same time, I was proud of all of them for everything they had accomplished. They may not have won, but they played their hearts out and will definitely be back there to take the gold.


You were nominated for an ESPY for Best Female College Athlete and attended the award show. Were you surprised when you first heard the news and how was that whole experience?

I honestly had no idea that I had been nominated until I started getting text messages from my friends and family saying congratulations. I was like, “congratulations for what?” because I was totally lost … ha ha!


What would you like to do once you graduate from Notre Dame?

I have always dreamt to play professionally. If that’s in God’s plans, I would definitely love to continue playing. After soccer, I want to try and pursue a career in sports broadcasting as a sideline reporter.


When you look back on your college career up to now, what is your proudest achievement?

Just that I was able to play for and with some of the most amazing people that I have ever met in my life.


Thanks to Melissa and Christopher.

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