UNC field hockey legend Erin Matson begins her first season as head coach
The GIST: A 23-year-old taking over a dynasty? No, this isn’t the plot of The Princess Diaries 2 — it's UNC field hockey’s new era under program legend and recent grad Erin Matson, whose first season as HC begins later this week.
The history: As we've said before, coaching icon Karen Shelton led the Tar Heels to dominance starting in 1981 — when she was only 23 — racking up title after title. But after her squad won their 10th national championship last November, Shelton retired, leaving enormous cleats to fill.
- Then–22 years old and fresh off her final season as the Tar Heels' three-year captain and the sport's most decorated player, Matson threw her hat in the ring in December. One month later, Shelton handed her the reins.
- It wasn't just a BFD for the program — Matson instantly became the NCAA's youngest Division I HC. Not not calling her a prodigy.
The changes: UNC's athletic director, Bubba Cunningham, agreed with Shelton that the squad needed new blood after an uninterrupted 42-year coaching reign. Matson was the natural choice, and she's already shaking things up by introducing more in-practice competitions and adapting strategies to reflect the modern game.
- Given her established relationships with former teammates, friends, and even roommates (some of whom are older than her), Matson had to implement boundaries, like abstaining from playing in scrimmages. She did, however, take the spring run test. Yes, voluntarily.
What's next: There’s no delaying Matson’s first coaching test — the Tar Heels’ season kicks off on Friday with the Big Ten–ACC Challenge. Their first foes? Midwest juggernaut Iowa, right after reigning Big Ten Tournament champ Michigan. No pressure, eh?