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  • Writer's picturePenny McNees

UNC Field Hockey returns to the ACC Championship

The University of North Carolina Field Hockey team is looking to repeat their 2022 NCAA Division I Field Hockey Championship, but this year looks different for the Tar Heels.

Long time coach Karen Shelton who is the winningest coach in the sports history, retired in December of 2022, and her former player, Erin Matson, who graduated in December 2022, was named as the fifth head coach in January 2023. Matson is now the youngest head coach in NCAA history at the age of 23.

Erin Matson during her time playing for UNC. Photo courtesy of @uncfieldhockey /Instagram

As a player, Matson won four NCAA National Championships and five ACC Championships in her five years on the team. Matson is also the all-time scoring leader in ACC history and in the NCAA tournament. On top of that Matson also won five times the ACC offensive player of the year and is a three time recipient of the Honda Sport Award for Field Hockey.

Matson has brought her illustrious success as a player to her coaching career at UNC. Under Matson in her first season as head coach, the UNC Field Hockey team is 13-3 overall and 5-1 in conference. In conference play, their only loss came against Virginia on October 20th, but in the NCAA semifinal, UNC beat Virginia 3-2 to move on to the final.

Ryleigh Heck. Photo courtesy of @uncfieldhockey /Instagram

UNC is going to look at their goal and assist leader in Ryleigh Heck to lead them offensively in the ACC Championship Final. Heck leads the team this season with ten goals and six assists and was an integral part of UNC’s semifinal win against Virginia, opening up scoring for the Tar Heels within the first three minutes of play.

Freshman Charly Bruder also adds to the strong UNC offensive side, tied at top of the goal leaderboard with Heck with ten goals, but what is so impressive about Bruder is that she has only played 460 minutes compared to Heck’s 676 minutes.

On the defensive end, UNC is going to look at Romea Riccardo to steady them. Riccardo leads the team in minutes played with 949 minutes and also adds to the offensive with six assists as the main inserter on corners for the UNC team. With Heck, Bruder, and Riccardo leading the way, this is a very hard UNC team to beat.

UNC plays in the ACC championship against Duke on November 3rd at 7 PM EST. UNC and Duke most recently played on October 27, with UNC taking a 2-1 win, so it is bound to be a close and competitive game in the championship.


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