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Former Cougar Bethany Balcer Wins NWSL Rookie of the Year Award

Alumna Bethany Balcer playing for Reign FC Soccer Program

Former Spring Arbor University women’s soccer player Bethany Balcer has been named the 2019 National Women’s Soccer League Rookie of the Year, the league announced Tuesday. Last week, Balcer was also named to the NWSL’s 2019 Second XI. The 22-year old who made history for becoming the first player from an NAIA school to sign an NWSL contract is also the first Reign FC player to receive the award.

“To be named Rookie of the Year is an absolute dream come true,” Balcer said. “It’s been quite the journey to get to where I am today, and I’m extremely humbled to receive this honor. I’m incredibly thankful to (former Reign FC head coach) Vlatko Andonovski for taking a chance on an undrafted player, and for pouring into me throughout the season to help me develop. It’s crazy to me how well this season went, and I wish there was some way to articulate how grateful I am. I hope that this shows that with hard work, determination, and a great group of people supporting you, you can make your dreams a reality. Everyone’s path is different, but at the end of the day you should be doing something you love with people you love. That’s where I’m currently at, and I couldn’t be happier.”

Votes were tallied on a weighted scale, broken down by players (40%), owners, general managers and coaches (20%), media members (20%) and fans (20%). Balcer dominated the poll, finishing with 57.9 percent of all votes. Washington Spirit defender Sam Staab finished second with 22.5 percent of the vote, while Spirit midfielder Jordan DiBiasi came in third with 19.6 percent.

Balcer was the only Reign FC to appear in all 24 of the club’s regular season matches. She scored a team-high six goals and added two assists, recording the club’s first-ever goal at Cheney Stadium when she scored against the Orlando Pride on April 21. The forward’s eight points in 2019 ranked tied for 14th in the NWSL.

Balcer topped off her incredible debut season with Week 7 Goal of Week honors for her header off the bar in Reign FC’s 2-1 win against the North Carolina Courage. She would add another goal that week in Reign FC’s 1-1 draw against the Houston Dash. She also scored in the 80th minute of Reign FC’s crucial 2-0 victory over Portland Thorns FC on September 29 securing Reign FC the final playoff spot.

Balcer, who won two national titles with the Spring Arbor, joined Reign FC’s preseason camp as an undrafted trialist before signing with the club two days before the season opener. The rookie finished fifth in the league with 69 shots across 1,700 minutes of play. She is one of 14 players in the league to have played in every match for their club this season.

Balcer is the first Reign FC player to earn the Rookie of the Year award. While at SAU, she became the first player to ever win three NAIA National Player of the Year awards.

“Bethany getting Rookie of the Year doesn’t surprise me at all,” former Reign FC head coach Vlatko Andonovski said. “I’m really happy for her. The way she made a name for herself in this league is a tremendous story. It’s a story that people will be talking about for years. I’m excited for her and I’m really anxious to see what her future looks like because I feel like she has lots of potential and she can keep improving, keep developing and keep getting better.”