Former Notre Dame star Melissa Henderson retires at 27


Melissa Henderson. (Jon Shapley, Houston Chronicle)

Melissa Henderson, who led Notre Dame to a national title in 2010, is retiring from professional soccer in her fifth season in the NWSL.

“My heart has not just been in it,” she told the Houston Chronicle.

The forward, a native of Garland, Texas, has played the past three seasons with the Houston Dash. Before that, she was with FC Kansas City.

“With a heavy, yet peaceful heart, I close a chapter of my life that has brought me so much joy these last 23 years,” she said in an open letter to Dash fans.

In a team statement announcing her retirement, she added:  “To my family, teammates, coaches, friends and fans – thank you. You have been a part of God’s journey for me from the beginning. Your love, support and encouragement have become my backbone throughout my career.”

The Chronicle reported that she may have been in danger of losing her spot on the Dash roster with the return of Carli Lloyd, who had been playing for Manchester City:

The Dash had been carrying a maximum 20 players during Lloyd’s time at Manchester City so they would have had to cut someone this week to make room for her.

Henderson said she wanted to be the one to leave.

“I don’t feel like it would be right for someone else to go through a valley when they don’t have to,” Henderson said. “Where my heart is and not being able to give 100 percent and knowing every other woman wants to be in it all the way, I couldn’t stay knowing my heart wasn’t it.”

Henderson retired once before, at the end of the 2015 season, only to reconsider.

“I’ve been thinking about it for a couple months now,” the Chronicle quoted her as saying. “My heart has not just been in it like it used to. I really prayed about it. I feel a sense of peace about my decision.

“It is time to completely close that chapter of my life. I did it once before, but this is really it.”

Melissa henderson ( Michael Ciaglo, Houston Chronicle)

Michael Ciaglo, Houston Chronicle

At Notre Dame, Henderson was a two-time first-team All-American. In 2010 — the year the Fighting Irish won the NCAA championship — the junior forward was a finalist for the Hermann Trophy, collegiate soccer’s highest award.

That year’s Hermann winner was Christen Press of Stanford, the school Notre Dame defeated for the national title. The other finalist was Alex Morgan of the University of California.

Henderson’s coach at Notre Dame was Randy Waldrum, who went on to lead the Dash, until he was fired last month on the heels of four consecutive Houston losses.

As a junior at Berkner High School in Richardson, Texas, she was selected as the Gatorade High School Player of the Year.

At the pro level, though, she never achieved stardom, scoring just one goal in the NWSL, for FC Kansas City in a 2013 playoff loss to the Portland Thorns.

A devout Christian, the 27-year-old said she planned to work in youth ministry in the Dallas area and also hoped to coach soccer.


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