Reign FC forward Bethany Balcer was named the National Women’s Soccer League’s Rookie of the Year, the league announced today. The forward made history by becoming the first player from an NAIA school to ever sign an NWSL contract and went on to lead all rookies in scoring during the 2019 season.
“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 goal at Cheney Stadium against the Orlando Pride on April 21.
Balcer, who won two national titles with Spring Arbor University, 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 in college, she became the first player to ever win three NAIA Women’s Soccer 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.”