Bethany Balcer scored 21 minutes into her first professional start, striking the equalizer on Easter Sunday for Reign FC as they played their first match at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma, Washington, their new home in this post-Seattle world.
The goal was a well-hit, composed strike. It wasn’t as flashy as the bicycle kick that Orlando Pride defender Alanna Kennedy converted 15 minutes prior, but Balcer’s strike stood to give Reign FC a share of the points in a 1-1 draw. And the significance of Balcer’s goal and impressive first start is multi-layered, for player, coach and beyond.
With all respect to her, Balcer entered this season as a nobody to the wider world. Almost every rookie – particularly in the National Women’s Soccer League, where rosters are small, and the learning curve can be sharp – starts her professional journey as one.
But Balcer, as we will continue to be reminded, played college soccer at Spring Arbor University, an NAIA school in Spring Arbor, Michigan, about an hour west of The Big House in Ann Arbor and 40 minutes south of Lansing. Balcer put together an incredible career in that relative obscurity, tallying 129 goals and 45 assists in 98 career college games. She was thrice named the NAIA national player of the year.
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