Dibbini and Franch

Kansas State head women’s soccer coach Mike Dibbini (left) and United States Women’s National Team goalkeeper Adrianna Franch smile in a selfie. The two have known each other since Franch was in grade school.

Mike Dibbini decided to make an important phone call in August 2017. The Kansas State women’s soccer team, entering only its second season as a program, was in Oregon preparing to play Oregon and Oregon State. Dibbini called someone he knew who could give his team inspiration. Adrianna Franch, who won a World Cup as a backup goalkeeper with the U.S. Women’s National Team in France on Sunday, came through.

“I was able to make a quick phone call for her to be able to come out and spend some time with our team in our second year and share some of her moments,” Dibbini said. “She talked about her time when she was playing in the Big 12 with a team down the road in Oklahoma State. I think it had a lasting effect on a lot of our players because they remember and always ask about her whenever he name pops up. It’s a proud moment for them because they got to meet her and spend some time with her.”

Dibbini has known Franch since she was in grade school. Franch, who is from Salina, played for the Salina Soccer Club, where Dibbini was the director of coaching. Franch also played basketball under Dibbini’s wife, Trina, in middle school. Dibbini even coached against Franch in high school, when he was leading Salina Central and she starred as a goalkeeper for Salina South.

Franch started her playing career at the YMCA. She quickly moved on to the Salina Soccer Club, then more competitive environments in Kansas City. She also was in the Olympic Development Program and attended Salina South High before playing at Oklahoma State.

Dibbini, proud of Franch’s accomplishments, only has positive thoughts on the World Cup champion.

“Women’s soccer in general is growing,” Dibbini said. “The press that they are receiving is well deserved, and for them to flat out dominate was impressive as well. They put together some really strong performances throughout the tournament, and knowing that Adrianna Franch is a part of that group is also a proud moment not only for herself and her family, but the people following her in Salina.”

Franch’s athletic ability separated her at an early age, Dibbini said, so much so that he believed she could’ve been the kicker for the football team or been a star in any sport she tried. Most of the time Dibbini spent around her in her youth was during her elementary years, when he was with the Salina Soccer Club. Dibbini was in charge of implementing the players’ curriculum and being a firm support system the players in the club. This is where the pair first met and developed a friendship.

He always appreciated her talent, even from the other side of the pitch when Franch was in high school.

“I know when I was coaching at Salina Central High School and she was at Salina South High School, from a team perspective, she kept them in every single game,” Dibbini said. “Our games came down to one goal to find separation, and it was only because of her in the goal. Without her in the goal it was a totally different team.”

Franch’s relationship with the Wildcats doesn’t stop at Dibbini and the team she met in Oregon, either. The newly appointed assistant coach, Kathleen Benton, worked camps and clinics with Franch, too.

With the connection to the school and Franch’s family still living in Salina, Dibbini is motivated to get Franch to help the Wildcats in the future. For now, she’s celebrating in New York with the World Cup champions.

“There’s a very small percentage of players you have a connection with that are at this stage and play at the highest level,” Dibbini said. “It’s hard to sometimes imagine, but it’s just a big, proud moment for the state of Kansas and the community of Salina. I can’t wait to see her again in person whenever she is back. And she will be back this summer, I don’t know exactly when. It will be a good moment when we are able to connect and visit again. For what I’ve known of her, family is first. She never forgets where she is from. She gives back quite a bit, too.”

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