Nov. 11, 2010
By Lauren Chval
“Fourth grade? Fifth grade?” Barg tries to recall.
“We played on the same club team in sixth grade,” Schuveiller decides. “But we’ve been playing in skill sessions since around fourth grade.”
The trio came to play for the Irish from cities near Dallas, Texas. Barg (Plano, Texas/Plano West) and Schuveiller (Plano, Texas/Plano West) attended the same high school with Henderson (Garland, Texas/Berkner) not far away. Schuveiller remembers making a list of “very lofty” goals at the beginning of their freshman year in high school.
“It was a chuck list, just a bunch of different things,” she recalls. “One of them was go to the same college. Quite honestly I didn’t think I would be able to go to the same college as Courtney because she’s so good. It kind of just worked out that way. It was definitely a blessing. I don’t know really know how I would make it through without them.”
All three girls insist that their transition from high school to college–both on and off the field–was made easier by their lifelong friendship.
“To be able to come to a school with somebody that you’ve known the majority of your life–it’s just nice because knowing somebody for so long, you have a bond that helps you on and off the field,” says Henderson.
Junior Melissa Henderson leads the Irish in scoring with 14 goals and seven assists for 35 points in 19 games during the 2010 season.
Certainly their relationship has helped them on the field. Their head coach Randy Waldrum, who also hails from Texas, says that the girls have an understanding of oneanother when they play–the kind that comes from years of sharing the ball.
“It’s such a lift when they’re all playing together,” Waldrum says. “Courtney Barg has been hurt almost all season and just came back in the last couple weeks, and you can almost see it just lift Jess. She was so excited just to see Courtney back in practice. They’re all three great players for the positions they play for us, but they have so much respect for each other.”
Schuveiller, Barg and Henderson do all play different positions on the field–defense, midfield and forward, respectively–but Waldrum says each plays a central position, which makes them “key for us up the spine of our team.”
“Having known each other for so long, we don’t even have to say anything to each other on the field,” Barg insists. “We can just look at each other and know what the other one’s thinking, and kind of feel of that on the field. It’s very helpful. Kind of getting a feel of where they are and what they think needs to be done during the game.”
Schuveiller is quick to agree.
“On the field it’s like, I have your back, you have mine,” she says. “They just have to give a look and I know. If the game’s going bad we kind of give each other a “Oh, God” look, and if it’s going good it’s kind of a little nod–keep it going.”
The three and their team now look ahead toward the NCAA tournament with high hopes as they do every season.
The Irish will play host to the first two rounds of this year’s tournament on Friday, Nov. 12 and Sunday, Nov. 14 at Alumni Field. Notre Dame will face New Mexico at 7:30 p.m. while the opening game pits USC versus Illinois at 5:00 p.m. The second round game between the two winners is set for 1:00 p.m. on Sunday.
“I think we’ve had a really strong season,” Schuveiller says. “But I also think that we’ve reached our full potential as a team. And I think that’s really promising for us, because if we can peak at the right time, we’re going to be able to make a really good run at the national championship.”
Last year, the Irish made it to the Final Four before losing to North Carolina–the team that beat them in the finals the previous year.
“I think every year the goal has kind of been win a national championship,” Barg says. “In these past years we’ve been so close. It’s very frustrating being so close and having it taken away.”
As influential as their friendship is on the field, the players will be the first to say that their relationship has always extended past the hours of practices and games. Henderson, the team’s leading scorer and the 2010 BIG EAST offensive player of the year recalls that the three went as “Alvin and the Chipmunks” for Halloween last year.
“It was just sort of funny how they matched our personalities,” she laughs.
It is clear they are friends first and teammates second from the way they can finish each other’s thoughts and laugh over things left unsaid. As they try to remember embarrassing stories about each other from their childhood, Schuveiller says, “Go ahead. Throw me under the bus.”
But all three are suspiciously blank of memories as they giggle to themselves.
They are willing to share–or rather, confess–an anecdote from earlier in the season, in which they stashed a walkie-talkie at the bottom of the team’s snack bag at the front of the bus and proceeded to call it frequently over the course of a three hour bus ride. They say their confused coaches and teammates were not as amused as they were.
“Soccer–if, when that goes away, we’re still going to be friends,” Barg says. “As good of friends.”
But before that, there may be a few more lofty goals left to accomplish on their list.