This season will be Ashley Hatch’s fifth in the NWSL. But, despite only being 25 years old, the 2017 Rookie of the Year finds herself as one of the most experienced forwards on the Washington Spirit roster. “I welcome the mentor role because I feel it is one small way I can help my teammates and return the favor of past veterans helping me and guiding me through my rookie season,” Hatch told BGN.
When it comes to her turn to offer from veteran knowledge, Ashley said, “Some advice I would give young players, especially rookies, is to continually learn from those around you and always ask questions. When I was a rookie, I learned so much from the veteran’s around me and it helped me so much, especially when it came to taking care of my body.”
In the last two NWSL College Drafts, the club has added a young attacking player in the top five (Ashley Sanchez in 2020 and Trinity Rodman in 2021). “Trinity and Sanchez are both great players and I am excited to continue our relationships on the field as we start games,” Hatch said. “They are both young and talented and I think having them both on the field helps our attack.”
Whether it’s in one of the club’s mic’d up videos or on social media, the young Spirit team definitely has fun, including manager Richie Burke. “Richie has a huge personality and tons of energy,” Ashley said. Who has the title of funniest player on the team? She answered, “The funniest player on our team… hmm… That’s hard we have so many great personalities on the team, but I would have to say Dorian (Bailey) and Feisty (Bayley Feist) are the funniest on the team. Together they make some funny Tik Tok’s.” The title for worst ‘dad jokes’ goes to the team’s sports scientist, Michael Minthorne, according to Hatch. She added that he is a dad, so that likely explains why.
On the pitch, the Spirit are no laughing matter. Last season, they were considered an up and coming team that could surprise some clubs in the NWSL. Now, the club will be expected to take the next step during the 2021 campaign. Hatch explained, “My expectations for this team have never changed. I think we have such a talented group, the only thing that would stop us from showing that is ourselves.”
“We need to continue to create relationships on the field, especially with the new players we got this year. Being apart of this team and working with them day in and day out is what gives me confidence that we can raise our level.”
— Washington Spirit (@WashSpirit) August 20, 2020
Ashley’s success with the Spirit has allowed her to get back involved in the USWNT picture, receiving multiple call-ups to camp under Vlatko Andonovski. “Getting called into camp is always an honor,” she said. “I love the challenging and competitive environment that pushes me to always rise to the occasion and play my absolute best.”
While getting an invitation into camp is a major accomplishment, Hatch is focused on breaking into the first team and seeing some match time, as she did in two friendlies in 2016 and 2018. “I’m motivated right now in my career more then ever,” Ashley explained. “I always had my sights set on that goal and I know giving my all in my current environment with the Spirit and succeeding here with them is what is going to get me there.”
The 2021 NWSL season, plus the Challenge Cup, will give Hatch plenty of opportunities to help the Spirit find success. “I am super excited,” Hatch said. “It’s nice to finally have the schedule out and see who our future opponents are.”
“I’m happy the Challenge Cup is not in a bubble setting. That setting was unique and great for the situation, but I am happy we will be having some home and away games as apart of the Challenge Cup.”
Hatch and the Spirit will kick off their 2021 Challenge Cup schedule with a matchup in North Carolina vs. the Courage on April 10th. Kickoff is set for 3:30 ET and will be live on Paramount+.