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UNC Field Hockey: Erin Matson gets her first win as head coach

The Tar Heels beat Michigan in the season opener in a top-5 showdown.

2020 NCAA Division I Women’s Field Hockey Championship Photo by Grant Halverson/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The Erin Matson era started off with a bang, as the former All-America took over the sidelines for the first time as head coach.

It was a packed night at Karen Shelton Stadium, with students and fans filling every seat in the stadium and overflowing to stand behind fence with any sightlines of the field. Karen Shelton, the 42-year veteran coach — with 25 ACC and 10 national championships to her name — was in the crowd to watch her player from the last five seasons (four of them ending in national championships). No pressure for the former star pupil, right?

Well, let’s pile on some more. Carolina, ranked #1 in the preseason, faced off against #4 Michigan, on the very same field that they beat the Wolverines for the 2020* national championship (the game was played in May 2021 due to Covid). Erin Matson scored three of UNC’s four goals that night, including the game-winner in overtime:

Additionally, the game got prime-time traction on the ACC Network, so a national audience could follow along.

The game began tentatively on both sides, as the two teams tried to feel each other out, neither squad creating too much danger. Michigan scored first in the first period, with Juliette Manzur getting a good shot off a one-one-one breakaway after a UNC turnover.

But then in the second period, the Tar Heels blew the doors down. Lisa Slinkert scored her first goal of the night a minute and 14 seconds into the period on a beautiful, flowing move where Ryleigh Heck split two Michigan defenders with a pass to Katie Dixon, who then assisted Slinkert while getting bulldozed by goalie Caylie McMahon.

More dominant possession in Michigan’s half of the field followed, and the Tar Heels scored two more goals in the period, both off of penalty corners, one for Kiersten Thomassey, and the other for Slinkert, both within two minutes of each other.

Michigan did get one goal back late in the fourth quarter after they began to press high, but there wasn’t enough time for the Wolverines to finish the comeback. Carolina killed them with passing to end the game, Michigan couldn’t get the ball back.

Congratulations to Erin Matson and the team for getting their first win of the season! Hopefully many more will follow.