Erin Matson has led the No. 1 UNC field hockey team to its 11th NCAA championship in program history.

She is 23 years old. And she’s the youngest head coach in Division I sports — and the youngest to win a national title.

Just last year, Matson was on the field with many of the players she’s coaching, winning the same championship. Matson also won four ACC championships as a player with the Tar Heels, and she’s already won one as a coach after defeating Duke in the ACC tournament final on Nov. 3.

Maybe her age is an advantage. Matson has been encouraging her teammates since she was on the pitch herself, and she has been able to carry that into her first season as head coach.

“We have that foundation of a relationship,” Matson told Sports Illustrated in August. “So, then it’s, ‘O.K., I’m not taking time to check in on how you’re doing because I don’t know. I’m taking time to check in on how you’re doing because I know who you are as a person, and I can read the situation and I’m here for you.’ It’s a different relationship.

“I know they have my back, and they know I have theirs. I think their attitude every day⁠—how much they want to succeed themselves but also do it together⁠—is really empowering.”

Another key to Matson’s success as a coach is her history as a player. Not only is she a four-time ACC champ, Matson also has been awarded player of the year honors three times and she is UNC’s all-time leading scorer. She also is one of the only coaches in the D-I sports who has navigated NIL regulations as a player, giving her precious insight into the minds of those she coaches off the field and on it.

In Sunday’s NCAA tournament final, the No. 1 Tar Heels beat the No. 2 Northwestern Wildcats by a score of 3-2 on penalty strokes to secure Matson’s first national title as a coach. And judging by her career so far, it probably won’t be her last.

Erin Matson won the NCAA field hockey championship with UNC as a player in 2022. One year later, the 23-year-old is leading the Tar Heels into the tournament as the youngest coach in Division I athletics.

As a fifth-year senior in 2022, Matson won a fourth national title with the Tar Heels, scoring the game-winning goal in UNC’s 2-1 win over Northwestern in the NCAA championship game. She ended her career as the all-time points leader in the ACC after winning ACC Offensive Player of the Year in each of her five seasons.

And when her playing career was finished, Matson stepped right into coaching. She took the reins from Karen Shelton, who retired in December 2022 after 42 years as the UNC head coach.

“I can’t believe how lucky I am to do this,” Matson told Sports Illustrated in August. “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.’”

As a player, Matson won four ACC Tournament championships with the Tar Heels. And she continued that streak in 2023, securing her first as a coach with a 2-0 win over Duke in Friday’s title game.

The NCAA will reveal the bracket for its 2023 tournament at 10 p.m. ET Sunday. Don’t be surprised to see Matson and No. 1-ranked UNC as the top seed.

North Carolina star forward Erin Matson celebrated in style Sunday after winning her fourth national championship as a member of the Tar Heels.

The fifth-year senior, who won ACC Offensive Player of the Year for a record fifth time in 2022, scored the game-winning goal in UNC’s 2-1 win over Northwestern. The ACC all-time points leader, she has had one of the greatest field hockey careers in NCAA history.

The recreation of Michael Jordan’s iconic photo celebration from his time with the Chicago Bulls becomes even more fitting when you remember Jordan also won an NCAA title with the Tar Heels.

Her goal Sunday – the 137th goal of her career, which tops UNC’s career goals list – earned her the Most Outstanding Player award.

As for those that put an asterisk next to her accolades due to her fifth year of eligibility, Matson said she finds those remarks “comical,” but she doesn’t pay much them much attention.

“You see tweets and stuff like that, and you see people clapping back like, ‘Oh yeah, it’s only because of the COVID rule,’” she said. “Well, OK, fine, we have four years now of people who can do it. Let’s see how many people can do it, because it’s still rare.”

North Carolina are once again national champions.

The Tar Heels, playing for their 10th national championship in school history, beat Northwestern 2-1 during Sunday’s championship final.

Dueling storylines of elite competition surrounded the game.

Northwestern entered the day as the defending champions. North Carolina were winners of the three national championships before that. They lost last season to the Wildcats in the tournament’s first round.

On Sunday, the Tar Heels struck first before halftime. They went into the locker room up 1-0 and held a 10-0 edge in shots.

That score would hold until roughly two minutes to go in the game, when Bente Baekers scored on the penalty corner.

UNC recovered quickly, taking it back down the field to go up 2-1 with 1:18 remaining. Eventually, the clock ran out on Northwestern’s season, bringing UNC their 10th national championship.

That number is the most all time, and caps off an undefeated season for the Tar Heels.

“It doesn’t ever get old,” head coach Karen Shelton told ESPN postgame. “I’m just so proud of this team.

“It was a great team effort. Defense wins championships and we defended them pretty well. Northwestern is so good, we had to be good defensively.”

The NCAA Field Hockey Final Four is set after a weekend filled with upsets. Liberty-Maryland and Harvard-Northwestern will meet in the semifinal matchups on Friday.

No. 7 Northwestern kicked off the action on Friday, taking down three-time defending national champion North Carolina 2-0 in the first round. With the win, the Wildcats became the first Big Ten team to knock off the reigning NCAA champion since 2018. It was also the first time since 2007 that the reigning NCAA champion has been shut out in a tournament game.

Now, for the first time in three years, the NCAA will crown a new field hockey champion.

Northwestern’s weekend didn’t end there. The Wildcats punched their ticket to the Final Four on Sunday, with Lauren Wadas scoring in the final minute to knock off No. 4 Iowa. The game was a rematch of last year’s Elite Eight matchup, which Iowa won.

Later on Sunday, No. 12 Harvard took down No. 2 Michigan 1-0 to clinch the first Final Four berth in program history.

The game remained scoreless through regulation and two overtime periods. The Crimson advanced in the penalty shootout after all three of Harvard’s players converted their shots and all three Michigan players missed.

No. 1 seed Rutgers also went down Sunday, with No. 9 Liberty defeating the Scarlet Knights 3-2 in a penalty shootout thanks to Charlotte Vaanhold’s game-winning goal.

Liberty will face No. 5 Maryland on Friday after the Terrapins knocked off No. 10 Syracuse 2-1. Emma DeBerdine fed Bibi Donraadt for a goal to secure the win and a trip to the Final Four.

The Final Four will take place in Ann Arbor, Mich. on Friday, with the championship game set for Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.

Final Four schedule

  • No. 5 Maryland vs. No. 9 Liberty at 12 p.m.
  • No. 7 Northwestern vs. No. 12 Harvard at 3 p.m.

*All times ET

It took seven total goals and overtime, but eventually North Carolina won its third consecutive NCAA Field Hockey championship on home turf.

Erin Matson, whose name was all over the scoresheet Sunday afternoon, scored the sudden-death goal in the seventh minute of overtime to lift the Tar Heels over Michigan, 4-3.

For Matson, it was her third goal of the game and 30th of the season.

With the win, the Tar Heels claimed three consecutive championships for the second time in program history, with the first three coming from 1995-97. They also tied Old Dominion for an NCAA-best ninth title.

The victory marked one other unique feat: The Tar Heels have never lost in their home stadium.

The scoring broke open in the 10th minute, with Kate Burney striking first for Michigan. Matson went on to tie it for North Carolina 33 seconds later.

Bryn Boylan was the only other Tar Heel to score, giving North Carolina its first lead with a penalty stroke goal in the 18th minute. Matson would make it 3-1 in the 38th minute.

Kathryn Peterson and Sarah Pyrtek did work in the 40th and 45th minutes for the Wolverines, scoring goals that erased a two-goal deficit late in the third quarter and sent the game to overtime.

Check out all of the highlights below.

The 2020-21 DI Field Hockey Championship title match is set after Friday’s semifinal competition, with both North Carolina and Michigan advancing.

No.1 North Carolina put on a commanding semifinal performance, overpowering No. 4 Iowa 3-0. The Tar Heels’ shutout sent the team to its third straight national championship.

No. 2 Michigan pushed past No. 3 Louisville in a nail-biter of a semifinal. The Wolverines struck first with a well-executed set piece. Then, in the final minutes of the match, Louisville equalized with a corner of their own, sending the game to overtime.

In the end, Michigan eked out the win, beating Louisville 4-3 in penalties.

Michigan and North Carolina will play for the national championship on Sunday, May 9 at 7 p.m. ET.

Stanford University Women’s Field Hockey’s season is done. It’s likely that so, too, is their program. 

The Field Hockey program was one of 11 cut by Stanford prior to the 2020-21 academic year, with the school citing finances and “competitive excellence” as their reasons for dismantling the programs.

Prior to Sunday’s loss in the NCAA tournament to top-ranked North Carolina in the Elite Eight, Stanford Field Hockey won its second-straight America East Championship and its fourth in the past five seasons. 

Stanford competed in the NCAA tournament with a stripe through their school’s name in continuation of a season-long protest. The statement echoes the all-black unitards Stanford wrestlers wore at the NCAA championships, including the wrestling team’s second-ever national champion, Shane Griffith. 

Following the loss, UNC Field Hockey tweeted in support of Stanford’s program.

Prior to their game against the Cardinal earlier in the tournament, the Miami Redhawks were seen holding a banner in support of the program.

A group of Stanford alumni called 36 Sports Strong has formed to try and reverse the university’s decision. So far, it has received more than $50 million in pledges to save the sports. The group, with advocates Andrew Luck (football), Julie Foudy (soccer), Kerri Walsh Jennings (volleyball), Josh Childress (basketball), Janet Evans (swimming) and Michelle Wie (golf), believes they will be able to raise enough money to allow the sports to become financially self-sustaining. 

However, their efforts have been met with staunch refusal by the administration to discuss possible solutions. The administration alleges that 36 Sports Strong’s financial evaluation is inaccurate.

“Discontinuing sports was an extremely painful decision, and it was driven by the financial challenges of supporting twice as many varsity teams as the Division I average at the level we believe is essential for our student-athletes to excel,” said a Stanford spokesperson. “The fundraising numbers cited by groups that have organized to reinstate individual sports and all 11 sports have significantly underestimated the total amount of funding required to support the programs they wish to reinstate and, in most cases, do not appear to be accounting for the need to adhere to Title IX gender equity requirements.”

But some don’t believe the decision was truly financial. Others have pointed to admissions as a potential issue, as the roughly 850 athletes make up 12 percent of the undergraduate population. While each athlete holds impressive academic achievements, the admissions threshold for a recruited athlete is not as stringent as the general population, resulting in the belief that the decision to cut the sports was to open up 240 admissions slots to students with different academic profiles. 

The idea that “competitive excellence” was a factor has fallen flat as the cut programs have excelled in their respective sports during their seasons. 

Yet the university has remained strong in asserting that the cuts were about finances and competitive excellence. 

As for Stanford Field Hockey, the program certainly isn’t going quietly. So far, the petition to save Stanford’s field hockey team has garnered almost 20,000 signatures.

First-round play in the 2020 Division I Field Hockey Championship wrapped up on Friday.

The four winners will join North Carolina, Michigan, Louisville and Iowa — who all received first-round byes as the top seeds — in Sunday’s quarterfinals.

First-round results (April 30):
  • Stanford defeated Miami, 5-4
  • Bucknell defeated VCU, 2-1
  • Northwestern defeated Delaware, 4-1
  • UConn defeated Rider, 5-0
Quarterfinal schedule (May 2):
  • No. 1 North Carolina vs. Stanford, 12 p.m. ET
  • No. 2 Michigan vs. Bucknell, 12 p.m. ET
  • No. 3 Louisville vs. UConn, 3 p.m. ET
  • No. 4 Iowa vs. Northwestern, 3 p.m. ET

All eyes will be on top-seeded North Carolina as the reigning champions seek to defend their title.

The 2020 Division I Field Hockey Championship bracket is set, with the top four teams (North Carolina, Iowa, Louisville, Michigan) all receiving first round byes.

Twelve spots were up for grabs. Nine programs were automatic selections for winning their conferences, while three programs — Iowa, Northwestern & Louisville — received at-large bids.

Taking the number one overall seed is North Carolina, who will be making a record 37th appearance in the NCAA tournament. They also have an opportunity to win a national championship on their home field, as the championship game will take place in Chapel Hill. 

Automatic Qualifiers:

  • American East Conference: Stanford
  • Atlantic Coast Conference: North Carolina
  • Atlantic 10 Conference: VCU
  • Big East Conference: UConn
  • Big Ten Conference: Michigan
  • Colonial Athletic Association: Delaware
  • Mid-American Conference: Miami (OH)
  • Northeast Conference: Rider
  • Patriot League: Bucknell

First- and second-round contests will be split between two sites: Penn State and North Carolina. The semifinal and championship games will take place in Chapel Hill and be broadcast on ESPN3/ESPNU. 

April 30 — First Round:

  • Miami (OH) vs. Stanford: 12 p.m. ET – Chapel Hill, NC
  • Northwestern vs. Delaware: 3 p.m. ET – Chapel Hill, NC
  • VCU vs. Bucknell: 12 p.m. ET – University Park, PA
  • UConn vs. Rider: 3 p.m. ET – University Park, PA

May 2 — Second Round:

  • #1 North Carolina vs. TBD: 12 p.m. ET – Chapel Hill, NC
  • #4 Iowa vs. TBD: 3 p.m. ET – Chapel Hill, NC
  • #3 Louisville vs. TBD: 3 p.m. ET – University Park, PA
  • #2 Michigan vs. TBD: 12 p.m. ET – University Park, PA