In 2022, Erin Matson won the NCAA field hockey championship with the University for North Carolina (UNC). One year later, the 23-year-old is now UNC's head coach — and just led the Tar Heels to an ACC tournament title.
Matson landed her alma mater's head coaching job after former UNC women's field hockey head coach Karen Shelton decided to retire in December 2022, after serving for 42 years at UNC. Yet, just because Matson is now the youngest coach in Division I athletics doesn't mean she isn't deserving of the job.
Matson ended her legendary UNC playing career in 2022 by winning a fourth national title, which she celebrated by recreating Michael Jordan's iconic four fingers and a cigar celebration. In addition to the four national titles, Matson also won ACC Offensive Player of the Year in each of her five seasons, was the three-time national field hockey player of the year, and ended her career as the all-time points leader in the ACC. Who better qualified to coach a college field hockey team than the college field hockey GOAT?
— UNC Tar Heels (@GoHeels) November 20, 2022
Yet, despite her many impressive accolades, the transition from player to coach has been surreal for Matson. In an August interview with Sports Illustrated, Matson said, "I can't believe how lucky I am to do this. It hits you. I can't believe this is my job. This is what I get to do. My boyfriend and I will be on FaceTime and I'll say, 'I can't believe I'm the head coach of UNC.'"
Matson has certainly found herself in a unique dynamic. She has been teammates with 21 out of the 28 UNC players that she's currently coaching, and was college roommates with a few of them, too. Yet, despite these shifting relationships, Matson has the complete support of her former teammates.
"I know they have my back, and they know I have theirs," Matson said. "I think their attitude every day? — how much they want to succeed themselves but also do it together? — is really empowering."
With UNC winning the ACC tournament title over the weekend, it's clear that the program made the right move in hiring Matson. Now UNC's next step is the NCAA tournament — which they're the top seed for. They'll play their first game on Friday, November 10th.
One would imagine that Matson will be nervous for her NCAA tournament coaching debut. Yet, she has been here before — albeit in a slightly different role.
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