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.

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.

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