By Cathy Harasta
The Texas Catholic
PLANO — Sarah Melén felt the full impact of her USA-Swedish dual citizenship in the weight room of John Paul II High School during the 2016 Rio Olympics last August.
The sophomore goalkeeper for the Cardinals soccer team, who recently returned from training as a member of Sweden’s National Under-16 “Football” Team, watched the USA-Sweden women’s Olympic quarterfinal match on a TV that the strength coaches set up for her.
As the match’s drama kicked in, Melén said that she felt the sense of divided loyalties but also excitement about her goal of playing in just such a match someday.
“Our family would always root for Sweden and the Americans, but I didn’t know what to do when they were playing each other,” she said on a recent April morning. “When Sweden scored, I was thinking, ‘How am I supposed to feel about this? Wow—this is so intense.’ ”
Sweden eliminated Team USA and won the Olympic silver medal after losing the final to Germany, 2-1.
Melén, who is 5-8, tried out last fall in Sweden for the U-16 squad and received her congratulatory letter earlier this year.
Her mother, Mary, is a Seattle native and her father, Henrik, is a naturalized US citizen who was born in Sweden.
Jeremy Morse, JPII head girls soccer coach, said that Melén’s international experience is valuable in several ways.
“It’s a unique opportunity,” Morse said. “Getting that international experience is a great recruiting tool for her college goals. She is a servant of a teammate and a leader who has helped me in my position as head coach.”
During her five days in Sweden in March, Melén said that she learned a new style of play with new teammates.
“It was kind of difficult to understand what the coach and players were saying at times, but when we were playing I had an amazing time,” she said.
Matt Montayne, who is Melén’s goalkeeper coach, said that the Swedish training boosted her confidence.
“She surprised herself at how well-prepared she was,” said Montayne, a former University of North Texas goalkeepers’ coach. “She’s a student of the game who puts in the hard work.”
Melén, a Frisco resident, also is an all-state tuba player.
“She’s a wonderful musician,” said Michael Browning, JPII’s band director. “She’s a good leader with the ability to bring out the best in others.”
Melén said that her parents urged their four children to seek balance in their lives.
She said that she loves chemistry and expects to pursue science in college.
“I want to play soccer at an NCAA Division I school,” she said. “I want to make a difference, wherever I go.”
Melén, who had six shutouts for the Cardinals in the 2016-17 season, plays for the Dallas Texans Soccer Club.
She said that her long-term goals will require patience.
“As goalkeepers, we mature later,” she said. “I want to play in the Olympics and the World Cup, and I want to win.”
The top five keepers in the most recent Women’s World Cup, in 2015, ranged from age 30 to 36.
Melén said that she is grateful for the supportive JPII community.
“Everyone here is so nice,” she said. “They are so willing to work with me and help me out.”