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Wednesday, Oct 11, 2023 at 1:41 pm

Erin Matson’s Unprecedented Rise to The Top at 23-Years-Old

When asking who the greatest player to come out of the University of North Carolina is, the answers may vary. Whether it’s Michael Jordan and his majestic slam dunks, Mia Hamm’s Goal Scoring artistry, or Lawrence Taylor’s disruptive sacks. However, none of these student-athletes may have quite their credentials as 23-year-old Erin Matson.

Less than a year ago, Matson was playing her fifth year of field hockey at UNC before graduating at the culmination of this season. Just like Jordan and Phil Jackson’s last dance, Madsen’s last game would end a 42-season tenure for head coach Karen Shelton. Before her 2022 campaign even began, the then 22-year-old had one idea in mind; to become the next to lead the most successful program in NCAA history.

“I went to our director in August before the season and I said, I want this job with a plan in place and so I expressed how much I wanted it. And he said, “Okay, go win a national championship with your team and then go talk.” I guess the rest is history” Matson said.

For Matson, history never looked like history when she was living through it. The national championship in her fifth season was just the tip of the iceberg for the forward’s storied career. The Chadds Ford Pennsylvania product is the most decorated player in program history and one of the all-time greats to ever play the sport. Mattson grew up wearing the jersey number one because that number was often on the smallest jersey, and she was often the youngest and smallest among her teammates. But with that short stature came tall ambitions for the month-old graduate. Nobody made the transition smoother for her than her predecessor.

“I think she’s the best mentor. You know, she’s obviously the most successful to ever do it. I couldn’t do it without her. She just she had a huge, huge, huge impact on my career and me as a person and everything” Matson said.

This past January, Matson was named the fifth head coach of UNC field hockey and is now the youngest coach in all of Division I athletics. For 21 Tarheel players. Their former captain is now called Coach. And while Mattson occasionally pines for her old playing days, many of her former teammates have embraced this unprecedented hire.

“I think I had their support from the start and the big question was not the X’s and O’s or the love for Carolina. It was, okay, are these guys going to respect the boundaries? Are they going to understand what it means? They’re responding to it. They show up with great attitudes and just really bought into being a part of the journey and doing something that’s never been done before,” Matson said.

The Mattson era for USC has seen a quintessential changing of the guard. North Carolina has consistently held the top three spots in the national rankings all season long. After tearing up going stadium for years with over 20 career points against Syracuse, the now Head Coach Erin Matson, watches the game from a different point of view; on the sideline when her number three Tar Heels come to play the 13th ranked orange this Friday, where another hurdle in the quest for her fifth national championship looms.