Jan. 13, 2012
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Notre Dame two-time All-America senior forward Melissa Henderson (Garland, Texas/Berkner) took the next step in her soccer career on Friday, as she was chosen by New Jersey-based Sky Blue FC with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2012 Women's Professional Soccer (WPS) College Draft that was held in Kansas City in conjunction with the annual National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) convention. Henderson is the highest WPS Draft selection in school history, and the third top-five draft pick in the four-year history of WPS.
With Henderson's selection on Friday, Notre Dame now has had 10 players chosen in the WPS College Draft since the league was formed in 2008. Prior to Friday, the Fighting Irish had seen two players (ironically also two-time All-Americans like Henderson) selected No. 5 overall in the WPS Draft -- midfielder/forward Brittany Bock was taken at that spot in 2008 by the Los Angeles Sol, while defender/midfielder Lauren Fowlkes was the fifth overall choice last year by the Philadelphia Independence.
Henderson collected first-team All-America honors in 2010 and third-team accolades this year, becoming the 15th Fighting Irish women's soccer to receive NSCAA All-America recognition twice in her career. In actuality, Henderson is a three-time All-America selection, having earned Soccer America First Team MVP status (equivalent to All-America honors) in both 2009 and 2010.
Henderson recently concluded her brilliant (and remarkably consistent) Notre Dame career with a career-high-tying 18 goals and eight assists in 2011, finishing among the BIG EAST Conference and NCAA leaders in goals and total points (44). For her career, Henderson registered 70 goals (including 24 match-winners) and 26 assists (166 points), tying for fourth in school history for career goals (with two-time All-American Jenny Streiffer) and goals per match (0.72, tying 2000 Hermann Trophy recipient Anne Makinen), and ranking ninth in Fighting Irish history for career points and 10th in points per match (1.71). What's more, Henderson holds the Notre Dame record for career match-winning goals, one more than 2006 & 2008 Hermann Trophy recipient Kerri Hanks, and ranks among the top 10 in numerous single-match, single-season and postseason record lists for the Fighting Irish, including sharing records for goals in a match (4), hat tricks in one season (3) and career hat tricks (6), achieving each of those marks earlier this season.
The 2010 Honda Sports Award recipient as the nation's top women's soccer player and the first runner-up for the Hermann Trophy, Henderson was a four-time all-BIG EAST selection and the 2010 BIG EAST Most Outstanding Offensive Player, repeating the latter honor on the national stage at the NCAA Women's College Cup, where she led Notre Dame to its third national championship and fifth consecutive College Cup appearance.
In addition to this year's All-America citation, Henderson was a first-team NSCAA All-Northeast Region choice for the third consecutive season (in addition to being a second-team choice in 2008). She also earned an invitation to last month's United States Women's National Team Camp at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., her first call-up to the full national team after being a regular with U.S. youth national teams at the U-20 and U-23 levels.
Notre Dame alums played a major role in the 2011 WPS campaign, with two former Fighting Irish greats - Bock ('09) and defender Candace Chapman ('05) helping Western New York Flash to the WPS regular-season and postseason championships. That duo joined Shannon Boxx ('99), Jen Buczkowski ('07), Carrie Dew ('09) and Hanks ('08) as Notre Dame alums with WPS championships to their credit -- Buczkowski and Hanks helped Sky Blue FC to the inaugural WPS crown in 2009, while Boxx, Chapman and Dew were part of the FC Gold Pride championship squad in 2010. The six Fighting Irish grads with WPS title rings are the most from any college program in the country, while three of those players (Boxx, Buczkowski and Chapman) have paired NCAA national championship and WPS championship titles during their careers, something Henderson now will have the opportunity to duplicate.
Henderson will join two other Notre Dame alums on the Sky Blue FC roster this summer, as Dew returns for her second season in New Jersey, joined by Chapman, who recently signed a free agent contract with the club. Meanwhile, Buczkowski signed a contract extension with Philadelphia, whom she has helped lead to the WPS championship match in its first two years of existence in 2010 and 2011. Bock is in her second season with Western New York, while Fowlkes signed a free agent contract with the Atlanta Beat. Boxx played last season for the now-disbanded magicJack franchise (based in Boca Raton, Fla.), and she is currently evaluating her playing options in WPS, while additional Fighting Irish alumnae could sign with WPS teams as free agents in the coming weeks.
For more information on the Notre Dame women's soccer program, join the Fighting Irish women's soccer news Twitter page (@NDsoccernews) or sign up for the Irish ALERT text-messaging system through the "Fan Center" pulldown menu on the main page at UND.com.