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ND Women’s Soccer: Sophomore scorer

Alex Barker | Wednesday, September 9, 2009

When an underclassman finishes second on the team in goals scored and total points, most would consider that a great season. But when you consider the fact that just three goals made up the difference between Melissa Henderson, a freshman at the time, and four-time All-American and two-time Hermann Trophy winner Kerri Hanks, the achievement becomes downright incredible.

“I think [Henderson’s freshman season] ranked right up there with the likes of Kerri Hanks and some of our other all-time great scorers,” Irish coach Randy Waldrum said. “What a lot of people don’t realize is that we only were able to play her around 60 minutes per game last season, far from the full 90 minutes, and yet she still was able to score a lot of goals for us under those circumstances.”

Henderson netted 17 goals and had two assists in her spectacular freshman campaign, good for 36 points in a season in which she helped the Irish reach the NCAA Championship tournament. For her efforts, Henderson was named Big East Rookie of the Year, took home first-team Freshman All-America honors and was also a Hermann Trophy nominee.

“She has a couple of things going for her,” Waldrum said. “For one, she has great speed. In any sport that really kills people. But with that speed she also has a lot of strength and she can hold people off the ball. That combination makes her very tough to defend. And at the end of the day, there is something to be said for players who just find a way to score goals. That’s what she and Kerri Hanks do so well.”

The Garland, Texas, native is no stranger to top competition. As a member of the Dallas Texans, one of the premier club teams in the country, Henderson led her squad twice to the national finals and once again as a member of the Dallas Sting.

Henderson also boasts an outstanding resume on the international level. She has traveled across the globe playing in tournaments as part of the U.S.’ youth national teams. She currently is a member of the Under-23 National Team player pool.

This past summer, Henderson underwent a number of surgeries to repair damage to her calf which prevented her from playing more minutes last season.

But while Waldrum said that she’s not quite feeling back to 100 percent, you would be hard-pressed to convince anyone else of that fact. With the exception of the UNC game, the sophomore has been on quite a tear thus far.

In the three games this season, Henderson has four goals, three of which were game-winners, and one assist to lead the team with nine points. Waldrum was quick to credit her tremendous growth as a player from last season to this point for her continued success.

“Last year, she didn’t feel much pressure as she flew under the radar in the shadow of Kerri Hanks and Brittany Bock,” Waldrum said. “But with Hanks and Bock now gone and more of the pressure resting on her shoulders, she is learning how to handle it herself. She’s trying to get the rest of the players on the field more involved by not being too selfish.”

Henderson and the Irish (3-1) will travel out to Santa Clara, Calif., for the Santa Clara Adidas Classic Friday. No. 5 Notre Dame will take on Santa Clara Friday followed by a matchup with No. 3 Stanford Sunday.