Reign FC forward Bethany Balcer was named NWSL Rookie of the Year, the league announced on Tuesday. The rookie from Spring Arbor University had a team-high six goals and two assists and was the only Reign FC player to appear in every game this season.
Balcer went undrafted and arrived in Tacoma as a non-roster invitee. She scored two goals in preseason and was signed to a first-team contract just before the start of the regular season, the first player from an NAIA school to sign in NWSL. She made her professional debut as a late substitute in the season opener at Houston and scored in her first start a week later against Orlando.
“To be named Rookie of the Year is an absolute dream come true,” said Balcer in a team release. “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.”
“I’m really happy for her,” said Andonovski. “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.”
Balcer received 57.9% of the final weighted vote, which was split proportionally between players (40%), owners, general managers and coaches (20%), media (20%), and fans (20%). The other two finalists for the award were Washington Spirit defender Sam Staab, who received 22.5% of the weighted vote, and Spirit midfielder Jordan DiBiasi, who received 19.6%.
“It’s crazy to me how well this season went, and I wish there was some way to articulate how grateful I am,” remarked Balcer. “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.”