Erin Matson, a sophomore forward on the North Carolina field hockey team, was named the recipient of the 2019-2020 Mary Garber ACC Female Athlete of the Year Award.
Matson became the youngest player to ever win the award — all previous recipients have been upperclassmen — and is the ninth UNC athlete to receive the honor.
Initially, Matson wasn’t fully aware of the historic value the recognition held.
“I honestly didn’t know that it was as big of a deal as it is," Matson said. "It’s pretty cool and it’s great for myself — even more so for our program and university — just to bring another Carolina athlete on that list."
Even after after being named a first team All-American as a first-year, Matson's success in her second season in Chapel Hill managed to exceed her first. She led the nation in both points per game and goals per game, notching 4.05 and 1.65 in those categories, respectively. She also averaged a conference-best 0.75 assists per game, adding to her impressive list of offensive statistics. Matson's play earned her first team All-American honors in 2018 and 2019, spots on the All-ACC team two years in a row, as well as the National Player of the Year award in 2019.
Her performance during the NCAA Tournament earned her the title of Most Outstanding Player after topping off an undefeated season with a national championship game victory. A four-goal performance in the semifinal and a two-goal outing in the final round displayed her ability to make plays when it counts.
“In the biggest games, on the biggest stage, she come’s to life,” head coach Karen Shelton said.
Shelton said she has been nothing but pleased with what she has seen from Matson in her first two years playing for UNC.
“I’ve seen and watched her growth and development through the years, and what I hoped would happen when she got to Carolina was that she would continue her growth and development," Shelton said. "I think that’s been very obvious from her first to her second year. She’s growing in all facets of the game and with her leadership potential as well.”
Shelton described Matson as a “coach’s dream,” and noted that she has been a major part of the Tar Heels success in completing back-to-back undefeated seasons.
“She is a powerful leader, she works hard every day, she’s very unselfish and she’s not afraid to speak up," Shelton said. "She plays both sides of the ball; she’s an offensive phenom, but when we don’t have the ball, she’s working hard to get it back.”
Even after helping lead North Carolina to consecutive national titles, Matson is is still motivated to improve her game and not get complacent with her success.
“Honestly, I try to just make the ones around me better. I love bringing the team together, just getting everyone around me to take it up to the next level," Matson said. "That’s what drives me, we can keep doing it. I’m lucky enough to have two years left at Carolina, there’s so much to look forward to. It’s all exciting to me because there’s still so much more we can do, and if we’ve already done, it we can do it again.”
Despite Matson's numerous accolades through just two seasons in Chapel Hill, she still maintains the team’s goals as her main priority.
“It’s amazing honestly, the most this means to me is the fact that I have two more years to try and do it again and the team has two more years with me there in order to win more national championships," Matson said. "It’s honestly just motivation and it’s a reminder of what we can do together.”
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.