NCAA goals leader Hatch has BYU women’s soccer rolling

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Ashley Hatch takes the ball downfield last season at South Field. Hatch leads the NCAA with eight goals this season for the Cougars. (Ari Davis)

BYU women’s soccer star Ashley Hatch is off to a hot start this season, leading the Cougars to a 5-1 record and four straight wins since late August, including a victory over defending national champion Penn State.

She’s also the NCAA’s leading scorer through six games, scoring eight goals.

Hatch tries to score early and often — a goal shared by her coaches and teammates.

“Our first objective of every game is to score earlier than the game before,” Hatch said. “It’s going to be hard to beat scoring so early, but we are going to go for it.”

Scoring early is a tactical decision that helps start off the game with a fast tempo for the Cougars. They use this strategy regardless of the opponent because they feel they’re talented enough to generate pressure on any team.

While success requires effort from the entire team, the Cougars are led by Hatch. She motivates the entire team through her example, and head coach Jennifer Rockwood said Hatch is playing great soccer on both sides of the ball.

“She’s (been playing some) of the most complete games I’ve seen in a long time,” Rockwood said. “She also provides a unique, strong defensive presence that usually isn’t seen in forwards.”

Hatch’s job defensively is to keep the ball to one of the field side while pressuring the opposing offense. Her ability to rattle ball handlers creates turnovers, which give the Cougars extra possessions.

“She’s the complete package right now,” associate head coach Chris Watkins said. “She’s shooting well and taking smart shots.”

Those “smart shots” are translating into points; 16 of Hatch’s 33 shots this season have been on goal and she’s easily on pace to set a new career-high in goals.

Hatch and the Cougars next travel to Columbus to take on the No. 19 Ohio State Buckeyes on Monday, Sept. 12.

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