LOS ANGELES — Former BYU striker Ashley Hatch has been training with the U-23 national team in Southern California all week, with the National Women’s Soccer League’s annual draft in the back of her mind.
But nothing was in the front of her mind for beginning her pro career — because no team had called, texted or messaged her prior to the draft.
Nil. Nada. Nobody.
“I’ve just seen stuff on Twitter, and some mock drafts, so I had a little inkling,” Hatch said after being drafted. “I couldn’t sleep last night. I was just really excited.”
Within 10 minutes of the start of the draft, her mind was quieted.
Hatch was selected No. 2 overall by the North Carolina Courage at the 2017 National Women’s Soccer League college draft held in Los Angeles. The senior from BYU joins former Riverton High star Darian Jenkins of UCLA, who was selected 7th overall by Carolina, while BYU teammate Michele Vasconcelos went No. 11 overall to the Chicago Red Stars.
It’s a perfect fit for Hatch, who followed top pick Rose Lavelle from Wisconsin who went to the Boston Breakers.
“I think she’s fantastic. She fits the Flash, or the Courage, with their style,” Aly Wagner, a U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame midfielder who played at Santa Clara, said of Hatch. “She’s fast, she’s powerful. She’ll score beautiful goals and ugly goals.
“This is a player that will step in and make a difference.”
Hatch scored 47 goals in her collegiate career, despite struggling with injuries for significant portions of her freshman and junior seasons. The Gilbert, Arizona native had 19 goals and six assists in her senior season, which put her on pace to lead the nation in scoring until she missed two weeks of the season to receive a national team call-up.
She finished tied for third nationally in total goals, just two behind the leaders, while BYU ranked third nationally with 2.64 goals per game.
“I feel like I can help teams get more shots on goal, and being in the right place at the right time — finishing those rebound goals,” Hatch said.
“I feel like there is a lot I need to work on: getting faster, stronger, quicker. I’m looking forward to getting better in all those areas.”
An NSCAA first-team All-American, Hatch made her U.S. women’s national team debut last October in a 4-0 win over Switzerland at Rio Tinto Stadium. She boasted two hat tricks in 2016, including scoring all three goals in a 3-2 upset Aug. 26 at 2015 national champion Penn State.
The Courage are the reigning champions of the NWSL, finishing the 2016 regular-season campaign at 9-6-5 before a win on penalty kicks in the final of the NWSL playoffs as the Western New York Flash. The Rochester, New York-based Flash announced last week the sale of the franchise, which would be relocated to Cary, North Carolina and play at WakeMed Soccer Park alongside second-division North American Soccer League side North Carolina FC.
Hatch was one of five players with Utah ties eligible for the NWSL draft. She joined former BYU teammate Vasconcelos, UCLA’s Jenkins, Utah defender Katie Rogers and Utah State forward Jessica Brooksby.
Vasconcelos also battled injuries during her five-year career at BYU, but the Alta High product saved her most prolific season for 2016. The 5-foot-5 West Coast Conference player of the year netted 16 goals and 13 assists as a senior, tied for ninth nationally in scoring and third in assists.
The two-time Gatorade Utah girls soccer player of the year in high school had at least a goal or an assist in each game to start September, when BYU outscored its opponents 24-3 during an eight-match winning streak.
Vasconcelos’ husband Pedro also plays soccer for BYU’s semi-pro franchise in the Premier Development League.
Jenkins, who prepped at Riverton High, was a second-team All-Pac 12 honoree at UCLA while scoring seven goals — five of them game-winners — before ending her career with a broken leg Oct. 2 at Oregon.
The top goal-scorer in Class 5A as a senior with the Silverwolves, Jenkins’ 14 career match-winning goals ranks fifth in UCLA. She also has extensive youth national team performance, narrowly missing the cut at youth national team camp prior to the FIFA U-20 World Cup.