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Friday, June 14, 2024
The Observer

Trio's rise to glory began at club level with Dallas Sting

With a front row seat for six years of the Notre Dame tri-captains' careers, Dallas Sting coach Kenny Medina played a crucial role in their development. Once he was done with them, both on and off the field, he sent them off to a friend and mentor at Notre Dame.

Forward Melissa Henderson, midfielder Courtney Barg and defender Jessica Schuveiller, all seniors, began their tutorial under Medina in seventh grade.

"I've had the best seat in the house," Medina said. "You get the perspective not only from the stands but also [from] coaching them, driving them to be better [and] also the times you get to have a good laugh with them. To have those three and the caliber of players we have, I just don't know when we'll have another trio like that again."

The glimpses of leadership that these three seniors showed early in their careers made it obvious they were going to be special players.An avid soccer fan, Medina was not surprised when he heard his former players were named tri-captains.

"Courtney wasn't our outspoken leader, but she spoke very inwardly to her team," he said. "Her team always knew the message, but it wasn't as transparent to [me]. Jessica was a lot more vocal; we called her our gladiator. When everyone couldn't go anymore, she kept persevering, persevering, persevering. She was always able to fight through.

"Melissa's leadership came through the way she performed on the field. What she does right now — she was doing it when she was younger. Her actions spoke louder than her words."

Medina vividly remembers a game in San Antonio the team was losing 3-0 at halftime. The game served as a learning experience for the entire team and highlighted the trio's leadership.

"I hadn't said much in the game," he said. "I'm a pretty driven coach, and I drive my players pretty hard," he said. "I challenged them at halftime to let them know I can sit on the bench and not get up, or [I can] coach you like I coach you and we can win."

The team rallied to score four goals in the second half and win the match. Medina had his team so fired up, he said, that the opposing coach refused to shake his hand following the game.

"I [told my team], ‘Just trust me, I'm not trying to break you; I'm trying to define you,'" he said. "The other coach ended up wanting to attack me because I was driving them so hard. We had such a laugh out of it, but it was a big trust and safety thing that we persevered there."

Medina said he knew long ago the three would be successful in college, compiling honors, awards and titles.

"There was no doubt about it in my mind," he said. "They each bring something a little different to the game. That's what makes Notre Dame so special because they're very committed, dedicated and driven for the team. It's not a situation where it is a selfish thing, and that's what makes them so special."

Despite being considered superstars by fans, the Irish captains shy away from their stardom and credit their team for getting them to this point in their careers. Medina stressed some things — like Henderson's character — never change.

"I think that's the best thing she does say about herself — the things she doesn't say about herself. She is such a quality person and [appreciates that] she has God-given talent. She is so humble because she gets it. She has not abused it, but she uses it for the good."

Barg, Henderson and Schuveiller may not know how much their former coach is cheering for them to become the best. In fact, Medina admitted that he doubts they even know he is a fan at all.

"If you asked them about me, they'd say, ‘Kenny was so hard on us, and he probably didn't like us,'" he said. "I talk about those kids all the time. They were always part of the team, and I never had the feeling that their accolades and how good they were got in the way."

When asked if he had any advice to offer the team captains four years later, Medina took a minute to imagine being back on the field as their coach, friend and now biggest fan.

"I've said too many things throughout the years," he said. "As far as I'm concerned, from my perspective, let them know how much I miss them and how much I follow them. Tell them to cherish every opportunity they get to step on the field, and [tell them] that they've been a lot of joy to a lot of people when we can see them play."

Medina has not had the opportunity to watch his former players during their careers at Notre Dame, but he said he is just one phone call away from making the trip.

"I am waiting for an invitation from my [former] coach," he said.

Irish coach Randy Waldrum, an Irving, Texas, native, was Medina's soccer coach when Medina was just 14 years old. Throughout Medina's coaching career, several of his players have elected to continue their soccer careers at Notre Dame. At one point, there were as many as six of Medina's former players on the Irish roster.

"The big joke is, ‘Boy, if I send all those kids to Randy, it's not because it's Randy or Notre Dame, but because he did a lot for me as a youth player,'" he said. "Randy was my favorite [coach] by far. He believed in me as a youth, and he knew his X's and O's as good as anybody."

In a similar manner, Medina believed in Barg, Henderson and Schuveiller, a grouping that is indeed rare in nature.

"A class like that doesn't come around very often, and to me, [fans should] take this opportunity to understand that three young ladies of that caliber is very unusual," he said. "There are schools that have more than three quality players on their team, but these girls all came from Dallas, played for the same club team and experienced a lot together throughout all these years. They have not been stagnant; they have persevered and gotten better and better."

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