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.