I’d also like to thank everyone who’s helped me get here today, including my high school coach, my club coaches. I’d like to thank BYU and all my teammates watching. You guys are awesome. —Ashley Hatch
Forward Ashley Hatch became the highest former BYU player to be selected in the National Women’s Soccer League College Draft, taken second overall by the North Carolina Courage in the 2017 draft on Thursday in Los Angeles.
Three players with Utah ties were taken in the first 11 picks of the draft. Forward Darian Jenkins, who prepped at Riverton High and played collegiately at UCLA, was selected No. 7 overall by the Courage while forward Michele Vasconcelos, out of Alta High and BYU, was taken by the Chicago Red Stars with the first pick of the second round, 11th overall.
This comes nearly two months after Hatch, a Gilbert, Arizona native, finished her collegiate career by helping the Cougars reach the Round of 16 in the NCAA tournament. As a senior, Hatch scored 19 goals, third-best in the nation and at times leading the country in that category. Twice, she scored a hat trick during the 2016 season.
She was named a first-team National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-American while helping BYU finish third nationally in scoring offense, averaging 2.64 goals per game, and was a semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy, the top individual honor in college soccer.
In October, she was invited to the 24-player U.S. Women’s National Team camp and earned her first cap when she subbed in during the Americans’ 4-0 win over Switzerland in a friendly at Rio Tinto Stadium. Hatch also was selected to the U.S. women’s U-23 camp earlier this month.
"I would like to thank the North Carolina Courage for giving me this opportunity and picking me," Hatch said during the live coverage of the 2017 NWSL draft. "I’d also like to thank everyone who’s helped me get here today, including my high school coach, my club coaches. I’d like to thank BYU and all my teammates watching. You guys are awesome.
"I’d like to thank my family who’s here with me today and who’s watching. I’m super excited for this new journey. Thanks again."
On Tuesday, the league announced that the Western New York Flash, last year’s NWSL champions, entered into an agreement with the North Carolina Football Club to acquire its NWSL rights, moving the team to Cary, North Carolina, and renaming the team the North Carolina Courage.
Now Hatch and Jenkins will have the chance to join the roster of the defending champs and make their impact.
"One of my biggest strengths, I have a pretty good skill of creating my own shot. I feel I can help teams get more shots on goal or just being in the right place at the right time, helping finish those rebound goals," Hatch said during the live coverage of the draft. "I feel there’s a lot more I need to work on, getting faster, quicker, stronger, learning more about the game. I’m excited to improve in all of those areas."
As a senior at UCLA in 2016, Jenkins was leading the Pac-12 in goals (seven), points (17) and game-winning goals (five) before breaking her fibula in an Oct. 2 win over Oregon, ending her collegiate career.
A Murray native, Jenkins earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors this year even though she missed half of the season. She finished her college career with 14 game-winning goals, fifth-most in UCLA history, and was the top goal-scorer in Class 5A as a senior at Riverton.
BYU had its second player taken in the draft when Chicago selected Vasconcelos. The Red Stars traded into the pick, giving the Boston Breakers a 2018 second-round pick and a 2018 international spot for the No. 11 pick.
Vasconcelos, a Sandy native, was named a Hero Sports All-American in 2016. She had 16 goals and a team-high 13 assists last year and ranked fifth nationally with 2.14 points per game. Vasconcelos was the 2011 Deseret News Ms. Soccer and the 2011-12 Gatorade Utah Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
Hatch and Vasconcelos became the third and fourth former Cougars to be taken during the NWSL draft, in its fifth season. In 2013, Lindsi Lisonbee-Cutshall went fourth overall to Sky Blue FC, and in 2014, Cloee Colohan was taken 14th overall in the second round by the Western New York Flash.