Our second Kevin Gray Awards Spotlight of the week features 2012 Kevin Gray Adult Player of the Year, Adrianna “AD” Franch. Originally from Salina, Kansas and a South High School graduate, AD boasted an impressive soccer background even before moving on to college and becoming a professional not long after. During her high school career, AD was a three-year member of the Kansas Olympic Development Program and earned All-State, All-Southwest Region and All-League honors as the starting goalie for the Cougars.
Franch, who as a child used to be called the “next Bri Scurry," then went on to become one of the most decorated players in Big 12 soccer history. Starting for Oklahoma State University all four years, Franch helped the Cowgirls secure back-to-back Big 12 Championships in 2009 and 2010. On an individual level, AD was named to the All-Big 12 Conference First Team four times, was a three-time All-American and currently holds the Oklahoma State career record for shutouts with 38 -- a number that ranks sixth all time in NCAA history.
Thanks to these remarkable statistics, AD immediately began getting looks from the U.S. Women’s National Team coaches. In 2010, her sophomore year, she was called up to the U-20 squad to compete at the World Cup in Germany and in 2012, she played on the U-23 team that won the Three Nations Tournament in Norway. Later that same year, Franch was invited to train with the senior U.S. WNT in preparation for the 2012 Olympics in London. Balancing national team duties with her responsibilities as a leader on the Oklahoma State women’s team was not easy, AD remarked, but all of her efforts proved to be worthwhile as Franch was drafted into the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) in January 2013 by the Western New York Flash. She was the sixth pick overall and the first goalkeeper selected by any team.
“Knowing that I achieved one of my biggest dreams and being able to say that I am professional soccer player was [one of] my proudest accomplishments,” AD said of the moment.
Just a few short months later, Franch made her professional debut for the Flash, making eight saves in the game and earning Player of the Week honors from Equalizer Soccer. After the match, Western New York head coach Aaran Lines said, “I see the future national team goalkeeper of the U.S.”
From there, AD’s success only continued. At the end of her rookie season, Franch was both a regular season titleholder and had also been named to the NWSL Second XI. Unfortunately, in March 2014, Franch suffered a torn right ACL during the first week of preseason and was forced to miss the entire 2014 season.
Following an 18-month recovery period and break from competition, Franch has recently signed with Norwegian Toppserien club Avaldsnes IL, officially leaving the Western New York Flash. According to AD, many emotions accompanied her long-awaited return to professional play.
“I was excited to get back, proud of the work put in to come back, and had a sense of relief to finally be back,” she told us.
Long term, Franch intends to continue pursuing further soccer success and says that “watching the World Cup makes me excited and motivated to keep making strides for the next one [in 2019].”
Don’t forget to check back tomorrow for our last Kevin Gray Awards Spotlight on Notre Dame grad and Portland Timbers rookie Nick Besler! To stay up to date on all things Sporting Club Network, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter and Instagram!