The University of North Carolina has a proud tradition of excellence in field hockey, with 10 national championships and 23 ACC titles in its history. The Tar Heels have been led by the legendary Karen Shelton, who retired in 2022 after 42 years as the head coach. Shelton is the winningest coach in women’s college field hockey history, and has mentored some of the best players in the sport.
One of those players is Erin Matson, who graduated in December 2022 after a stellar career at UNC. Matson is widely regarded as the greatest athlete in college field hockey history, with four national championships, five ACC championships, five ACC Offensive Player of the Year awards, and three Honda Sport Awards for Field Hockey. She is the ACC’s all-time leader in goals and points, and was named as one of the top 10 female athletes in conference history.
Matson is now the new head coach of the UNC field hockey program, becoming the youngest head coach in NCAA history at 23 years old. She was formally announced as the successor of Shelton on January 31, 2023, and has the full support of her former coach and mentor.
“Erin is the perfect choice to lead our program into the future,” Shelton said. “She has been a phenomenal player, leader, and ambassador for UNC field hockey, and she has a passion and vision for the game that is unmatched. She knows how to inspire, listen, teach, and win – all qualities that will translate well to the sidelines and make her a terrific head coach.”
Matson said she is honored and excited to take on the challenge of continuing the legacy of UNC field hockey, and that she will do whatever it takes to maintain the high standards of the program.
“This program means the world to me, and I will do whatever it takes to continue the excellence that is UNC field hockey,” Matson said. “This is a dream come true for me, and I am grateful for the opportunity and the trust that Coach Shelton and Bubba Cunningham have placed in me. I look forward to working with our amazing staff and players, and to keep building on the culture and tradition that Coach Shelton has established.”
Matson made her head coaching debut on August 25, 2023, with a 3-2 win over Michigan. The Tar Heels went on to win 14 of 17 games in the regular season, and clinched their sixth-straight ACC championship with a 2-0 win over Duke on November 5, 2023. Matson became the first person in NCAA history to win an ACC title as both a player and a coach.
The Tar Heels are currently ranked No. 1 in the nation, and will enter the NCAA tournament as the top seed. Matson will try to lead her alma mater to a national title in her first year out of college, in her first year as head coach. If she succeeds, she will add another remarkable feat to her already impressive resume.
Matson is not only a coach, but also a role model for young girls who aspire to play field hockey at the highest level. She is an example of what hard work, dedication, and talent can achieve, and she is determined to share her knowledge and experience with the next generation of Tar Heels.
“I love this game, and I love this program,” Matson said. “I want to give back to the sport that has given me so much, and to help our players grow as athletes and as people. I want to make Coach Shelton proud, and to make our fans proud. I want to keep the Carolina blue shining bright.”
The Sport Lady has been a lifelong sports enthusiast. She believes that sports have the power to unite people, create common bonds, and foster shared experiences. As a wife and mother of sports lovers, she is passionate about her favorite teams and cherishes every opportunity to watch them play. For her, every day is game day!