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Notre Dame Soccer: Texas Trio

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At the time, it seemed like silly girl talk. Three middle school friends, all on the same club soccer team, made a pact to play together in college and compete for national championships.

None of them envisioned it actually happening, though. After all, those scripts are saved for Hollywood.

But, somehow, this one became a reality. The three young Dallas-Fort Worth soccer stars — Melissa Henderson, Courtney Barg and Jessica Schuveiller — all were offered scholarships to Notre Dame out of high school, and all chose to leave the more desirable North Texas weather for the rain and snow of South Bend, Ind.

And, in their junior season, Henderson, Barg and Schuveiller accomplished their loftiest childhood dream, winning an NCAA national championship. All three played a key role in leading the Fighting Irish from a quarterfinal exit in the Big East tournament to a thrilling 1–0 victory over a then-unbeaten Stanford team in the National Championship game.

“We always talked about going to the same college, but never thought it would actually happen,” said Henderson, who had the assist for what proved to be the game-winning goal in the title game. “It’s still surreal that we won. It was just amazing, and afterwards all three of us looked at each other and it was just ecstatic and excitement.”

Added Barg: “I was always making those little promises like, let’s go to the same college and let’s win a national championship. You just say those things and hope they come true. And it really did for us. It really did.”

Yes, it did.

The season took a drastic turn after Notre Dame was eliminated by Connecticut, 2–0, in the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament on Halloween.

“We didn’t just lose that game, we were beat,” Schuveiller said.

The day after that loss, the team had a 5 a.m. film session, and proceeded to change its mindset and attitude over the next two weeks. When they opened the NCAA tournament, the Irish rolled to two dominating victories, 3–0 over New Mexico in the first round and 4–0 over USC in the second round.

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Then, Notre Dame moved past North Carolina and Oklahoma State to reach the Final Four. Once there, the Irish held on for thrilling 1–0 victories over Ohio State and Stanford.

In the championship game, Adriana Leon knocked in the lone goal, set up from a crossing pass from Henderson. And Schuveiller held one of the top offensive players in the country, Stanford’s Christen Press, in check.

“Oh man, it’s just been an amazing experience, especially being able to go through it all with Melissa and Courtney,” Schuveiller said. “It just makes it that much more special. It still hasn’t really sunk in yet.”

Schuveiller and Barg had a similar moment in high school, when both were on Plano West’s state championship team. Henderson, meanwhile, attended a neighboring high school, Berkner in nearby Richardson.

But the groundwork for the collegiate title started well before high school.

All three showed promise as young players, and they eventually came together as 11-year-olds on a Dallas-Fort Worth club team, the Dallas Texans, coached by Kenny Medina.

Once on the club team, the three helped the Texans become a well-known team on the club circuit, and consistently challenged for US Youth Soccer National Championships. And their bond with Medina grew to the point that even when Medina joined another club team, the Dallas Sting, in 2007, all three of them followed him.

Medina has kept in touch with his three former players. During the NCAA national title game, he was glued to an airport television and caught himself coaching them through the TV set.

“We had such a wonderful run ourselves even though we never capped it off with a national championship. I thought they really deserved one,” Medina said. “When they held that trophy up, it was really special for a lot of us, and there was a lot of emotions going through me.”

Now, it’s up to the Texas trio to keep the title in South Bend. All three will be seniors next season, and the Irish will look to repeat.

“Obviously, the ultimate goal is to win it again,” Barg said. “It’s nice to have one under our belt, so we know what it takes to win it.”