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The University News

The Student News Site of Saint Louis University

The University News

From Player, to Coach

Erin Matson, Becomes the Youngest Collegiate Head Coach at the age of 23 to Win a National Title.
From+Player%2C+to+Coach

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) field hockey won their 11th National Championship on Sunday, Nov. 19 and were led by their 23-year-old head coach, Erin Matson, who won the same championship last year with the team. 

Matson spent five years with UNC and won four national championships. Matson applied for the job in Dec. 2022 and was eventually hired in late Jan. of this year. She replaced former head coach, Karen Shelton, who retired in 2022 and spent 42 years as head of the program. 

During her time as a player, Matson was a three-time National Player of the Year. She is the career-scoring leader in the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and NCAA Tournament history. The move from player to coach was something Matson had always wanted.

“It’s also been exactly what I want,” Matson said. “It’s not just like a normal new coaching position, getting acclimated to Carolina or whatever. I know how this place runs. But I’m learning all that it takes to run a program, to be a coach, as well as doing the actual work to be successful with it. It’s been a lot but I wouldn’t change anything about it.”

Matson is now on the other side of the sport, being in charge of recruiting prospects and their families. She has to set practice schedules and discipline players whom she was teammates with just last year. Matson even bought a second cell phone so that her players could contact her officially as their coach, not as their former teammate.

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“There’s a maturity level to her personality that gives you a sense of confidence,” UNC athletics director, Bubba Cunningham said. “She has a sense of purpose. She’s obviously driven and focused. She is just a very thoughtful and very deliberate person that is always prepared.”

Of course, there was some doubt about if Matson was truly ready to take on the job at such a young age. 

“The day I was hired, there was a guy on Twitter: ‘She’s not even old enough to rent a car right now.’ It’s like, ‘All right dude, if that’s the biggest worry you have, I think we’re in a good spot, Matson said. “There is Uber, and I will figure it out because I’m resourceful.”

And on Sunday night in Chapel Hill, Matson proved herself to the doubters as the Tar Heels beat the Northwestern Wildcats 2-1 in a double-overtime penalty shootout to win the national title.

“I live by the quote: pressure is a privilege,” Matson said. “I think the ability to be in a situation like this, I’m grateful for that, and I appreciate that.” 

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