PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Notre Dame women’s soccer junior All-America forward Melissa Henderson, one of the main catalysts behind the Fighting Irish run to the 2010 NCAA national championship, has been selected as this year’s recipient of the Honda Sports Award for women’s soccer, designating her as the nation’s top collegiate female athlete in that sport. Henderson is just the second Fighting Irish student-athlete to receive this award, following in the footsteps of another Notre Dame women’s soccer player, Cindy Daws, who took home the 1997 Honda Sports Award.
Henderson was selected as this year’s award recipient based upon the results of national balloting among 1,000 NCAA member schools as part of the Collegiate Women Sports Awards program, which is now in its 35th year.
The Honda Sports Award is given annually to the top female student-athletes in 12 NCAA-sanctioned sports, with the recipient in each sport earning a spot on the year-end ballot for the Honda-Broderick Cup, which goes to the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year (an award Daws received in 1997).
Henderson is the third of the 12 individual Honda Sports Award recipients this year and second from the BIG EAST. Henderson joins Villanova’s Sheila Reid (cross country) and Maryland’s Katie O’Donnell (field hockey). The Honda-Broderick Cup recipient will be announced June 27, 2011, at a ceremony in New York, at which the top three vote-getters/finalists are scheduled to attend.
“I want to thank the Collegiate Women Sports Awards program and Honda, as well as those who voted for this year’s Honda Sports Award,” Henderson said. “I have not only been blessed to be part of the team that won the national championship, but also to receive this award. Winning such a prestigious award is an honor, especially in light of the other nominees this year and those who have been nominated and received this award in the past. I am truly thankful to even be mentioned in the company of such tremendous student-athletes.”
Tuesday’s announcement is the latest in a series of national honors for Henderson, who is a finalist (along with Morgan and Press) for the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy, which also goes to the nation’s top women’s soccer player. Henderson also is an NSCAA first-team All-America selection, was the Most Outstanding Offensive Player at this year’s NCAA Women’s College Cup, and is a prime candidate for further All-America citations from other media outlets in the coming weeks.
As she has been in each of her three years at Notre Dame, Henderson arguably was the nation’s most electric offensive threat this season, scoring 17 goals and dishing out a career-high 11 assists en route to a career-high 45 points. She was one of only three players in the country this season (along with Nebraska’s Morgan Marlborough and Dayton’s Colleen Williams) to rank among the top 20 in goals (sixth), assists (tied-20th) and points (fourth) — while being one of just two players (along with Williams) to also compete in this year’s NCAA Championship and the only one to take her team beyond the first two rounds of the tournament — and she was one of 10 players nationwide to post double-digit totals in both goals and assists.
Furthermore, the speedy Texan ranked at or near the top of the BIG EAST Conference in every major offensive category, including those already named, plus game-winning goals (first - 6), which also ranks eighth in school history. Her 16 game-winning points (6G-4A), capped by her assist on freshman forward Adriana Leon’s decisive 63rd-minute goal in the NCAA national championship match (a 1-0 win over top-ranked and previously-unbeaten Stanford), are tied for ninth-most on the Fighting Irish single-season charts.
Awards were plentiful for Henderson this season. In addition to her All-America citations and College Cup accolades, she also was the BIG EAST Offensive Player of the Year and a unanimous first-team all-BIG EAST honoree, in addition to being named to the Top Drawer Soccer National Team of the Year (first team) and earning TDS National Player of the Week laurels on Oct. 4.
In her 76-match career, Henderson has piled up 52 goals (11th in school history) and 18 assists for 122 points (15th in school history), while her 20 career game-winning goals are second in program annals behind Hanks’ 23 scores. What’s more, the Fighting Irish are unbeaten all-time when Henderson scores a goal (35-0-2) or registers a point (44-0-2).
During Henderson’s three-year career, Notre Dame has posted a sparkling 68-7-3 (.891) record — the second-most wins and third-highest winning percentage in the nation during that span — while winning the 2010 national championship, finishing as the 2008 NCAA national runner-up and advancing to the NCAA Women’s College Cup all three seasons. The Fighting Irish also have won three BIG EAST National Division titles and two BIG EAST postseason championships (2008, 2009), and logged an 18-5 record against NSCAA Top 25 teams since Henderson arrived on campus in 2008.