Bethany Balcer arrived at Reign FC’s preseason camp as an undrafted trialist chasing a dream. Seven months later, the forward is the club’s leading scorer as she helps it pursue a playoff berth.
“There’s a lot of things that I’m still learning and absorbing,” Balcer said. “In that sense, I’m growing my game a lot right now. It reminds me that I’m a rookie. But I don’t think that will change in the coming years. We’re always learning and growing. I feel like I’ve settled in and that I belong here. It’s great. It makes me more comfortable on the field and makes me a better player.”
The forward was already set to join the club as a National Team Replacement Player during the World Cup, when she got an unexpected phone call two days before the club’s season opener against the Houston Dash, inviting her to join the team.
It was just the latest chapter in Balcer’s unconventional path to professional soccer, one that saw her become the first NWSL player from an NAIA school after rewriting the record books at Spring Arbor University.
Four goals and two assists later, Balcer is drawing not only the attention of other team’s scouting reports, but U.S. Soccer, as well. The forward, along with teammates Casey Murphy and Schuyler DeBree, received her first-ever call up to international duty to represent the U.S. Women’s National Team U23s at the 2019 Nordic Tournament.
“It was awesome,” Balcer said. “Vlatko and I talked about that being the next step. To get the call from (U-23 head coach B.J. Snow) was surreal. Since I made it here, I knew that I could perform at that level. To be given that opportunity and to be with other girls from the league was awesome.”
Balcer’s form has shown since her return from international duty, scoring a goal and recording an assist in her last two matches to move her to the top of the team’s stat sheet.
For Balcer, seeing the ball hit the back of the net helped reinforce the confidence that has been steadily building all season.
“Scoring those three goals early and then not having a goal until Washington, I’m not going to lie, it put a dent in my confidence, but the fact that I was still getting time meant that there was something that I have that the team needs. If goals come, good. If assists come, that’s great too. As long as I’m contributing to the success of the team. That’s what I’m here to do.”
The 22-year-old is now one of two players on Reign FC’s roster, alongside centerback Megan Oyster, to have appeared in all 20 matches so far for the club. Balcer has shown versatility for the club, playing on the wing and even getting minutes as a central attacking midfielder against Washington on September 14, to go along with her traditional role as a lone striker.
“I think I’m finally settling into the winger role now that I’m firmly there,” Balcer said. “I’d never played it before coming here. I’ve been learning the nuances of that position: where I need to be, what I need to do. I’ve been learning how the players around me work. I feel like I’m learning a lot and I’m excited about how I think I can continue to grow.”
Balcer is also thankful for the tremendous fan support that she and the club have enjoyed at Cheney Stadium this season, citing them as a reason for the club’s success.
“I said before the game against Orlando how excited I was to play in front of the home crowd,” Balcer said. “It had been a while. We love the home fans. It’s great, it’s the atmosphere that we love to be in and thrive in and feed off of. We love it here and hopefully people keep coming out.”
Reign FC plays host to Utah Royals FC on Wednesday, September 18 at 7:00 p.m. PT. Tickets are available online, or by calling the Reign FC ticket office at (855) REIGN-FC.