Ashley Hatch, ward Young Women adviser and former BYU star, claims U.S. league scoring crown

Here’s a boast the teenage girls from the Ashburn Ward, Ashburn Virginia Stake, could legitimately make (if, of course, they were the boasting type): My Young Women adviser is better at soccer than your Young Women adviser.

When Ashley Hatch is not serving alongside the Ashburn Ward young women she can often be found in a soccer stadium somewhere in the United States scoring goals. A lot of goals. The Latter-day Saint athlete recently claimed the 2021 Golden Boot in the National Women’s Soccer League — one of the world’s premier women’s professional leagues.

The “Boot” is awarded to the league’s top goal scorer. The 26-year-old Hatch secured the title after scoring 10 goals during the 2021 season. 

She is also one of five finalists for the NWSL’s Most Valuable Player award. Four years ago, Hatch was the NWSL Rookie of the Year.

The Church News caught up with Hatch shortly after her team, the Washington Spirit, defeated the North Carolina Courage 1-0 in the Nov. 7 opening round of the NWSL playoffs. No surprise, Hatch netted the game’s only goal in extra time.

“It helps to have a great cast around you,” she said, humbly. “I’ve also put in a lot of work on my own watching film and talking with coaches and working on being in the right place at the right time. Just looking for opportunities to create on my own or with others.”

If you have followed Hatch’s playing career since her All-America days at Brigham Young University, you know that putting soccer balls in the backs of soccer nets is what she does best. She was a prolific scorer for the Cougars and a finalist for the 2016 Hermann Trophy Award, recognizing the top player in women’s college soccer. Meanwhile, her affable approachability made her a BYU fan favorite and a popular teammate.

Despite Hatch’s scoring success on the pitch, the 2021 regular season was often rocky for her and her Spirit teammates. They weathered a high-profile coaching dismissal, and an ongoing pandemic.

But Hatch said her team demonstrates grace under pressure — focusing on their performance and looking out for one another. “We’ve been through a lot, but I am super proud of my team. We could have made a lot of excuses … but we pushed those excuses aside and performed. It’s been an awesome thing to be a part of.”

The Gilbert, Arizona, native added that serving with the youth in her Virginia ward has also been a blessing and a welcome respite from the pressures of being a pro athlete.

Latter-day Saint pro soccer player Ashley Hatch and her husband, Jeff Van Buren, were married in 2019 in the Gilbert Arizona Temple.
Latter-day Saint pro soccer player Ashley Hatch and her husband, Jeff Van Buren, were married in 2019 in the Gilbert Arizona Temple. Credit: Drey Johnson Photography

“Just being able to attend Church in person and interacting with other members of my faith has helped me a ton, spiritually,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed getting involved in my Church calling. … I feel so blessed to be able to work with the young women.”

As an athlete, Hatch is uplifted by the support she gets hearing the game day cheers from the Ashburn Ward girls — and she also enjoys attending their games and activities. “It’s been fun bonding with my ward family.”

She wants to add an NWSL team title to her Golden Boot-winning resume. The Spirit play in the league semifinals on Nov. 14 against the OL Reign. If they win — perhaps following a goal or two from their star striker — it is on to the Nov. 20 title game in Louisville, Kentucky.

Meanwhile, the United States women’s national team is always seeking elite players who can finish in front of the net. Hatch already has some experience with the national side. She is hoping her stellar 2021 season offers future opportunities to represent her country.

“It’s every girl’s dream to make an impact on the national team, so I’ll continue to prepare myself for any opportunities,” she said.

The weather’s getting a bit nippier on the Atlantic Coast. So once the playoffs end, Hatch and her husband, Jeff Van Buren, will be heading west to the Grand Canyon State for the offseason.

“I’m ready,” she said, laughing, “for a warm winter.”