Carolina fans are used to both the best coaches and best players in the sport practicing their craft while in Chapel Hill, and the Field Hockey team is no different. Coach Karen Shelton and junior Erin Matson have formed a powerful pair during Matson’s three years on campus, and it came through again on Sunday as the Tar Heels took down the national title. The win was the Tar Heels’ ninth overall, and third in a row. One for each year Matson has been on the field.
This time, the Tar Heels took down a difficult opponent in the Michigan Wolverines, the overall two seed. The match was a tight back and forth affair, as Michigan was able to scratch first but the Tar Heels answers merely 30 seconds later by, who else, Matson.
The junior was easy to spot darting up and down the field in her orange shoes, and after taking a 2-1 lead thanks to a sick penalty stroke by Bryn Boylan, she gave the Tar Heels what seemed like a sturdy 3-1 lead by hitting goal from way outside the arc.
To their credit, though, Michigan fought back. The Tar Heels had another penalty corner that they couldn’t convert on, and Michigan quickly ran down the other way and scored. The momentum clearly turned, and the Wolverines were able to tie it at three minutes later.
Neither squad could scratch another goal, so it went into overtime. NCAA rules have it as “Sudden winner,” playing two 10 minute overtimes and then a shootout. Late in the first overtime, the Tar Heels managed to get a corner shot, and there was no doubt who would take it. After getting stopped on the first one, Matson would immediately get a second chance — even though she argued with the ref that play should have continued.
She left no doubt about the second chance.
The Tar Heels take the title in the stadium named for the legendary coach, and they were able to do it surrounded by fans. Thanks to vaccination efforts, some fans were allowed in the actual stadium, and others surrounded outside to provide one of the liveliest atmospheres college sports has seen since the pandemic started.
This program has built a dynasty that show any signs of slowing down, and it was only fitting that fans finally got a chance to cheer this team on to a title. Congrats to Coach Shelton and the rest of the Field Hockey Tar Heels!