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Wednesday February 1st

Analysis: The road to UNC field hockey's ninth NCAA Championship

UNC field hockey celebrates their third consecutive national championship on Sunday, May 9 in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels triumphed over the Michigan Wolverines 4-3.
Buy Photos UNC field hockey celebrates their third consecutive national championship on Sunday, May 9 in Chapel Hill. The Tar Heels triumphed over the Michigan Wolverines 4-3.

The North Carolina field hockey team beat Michigan on Sunday 4-3 to claim its third-straight national championship. With the win — the ninth in program history — UNC is now tied with Old Dominion for the most field hockey titles of all time.

But how did the Tar Heels become such a dominant force in college field hockey?

Here’s a comprehensive timeline of the program's history, from its inception to the 2020-21 NCAA Championship.


Field hockey becomes a varsity sport at UNC. The team cycles through four coaches while playing as a charter member of the Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for Women.


Karen Shelton is hired as head coach of the program at 23 years old. Shelton, a three-time national player of the year at West Chester State and a member of the U.S. National Team, oversaw UNC’s final season in the AIAW before it moved to the NCAA in 1982.


UNC wins the first-ever ACC Field Hockey Tournament, starting a streak of nine-straight conference tourney victories. Of the 37 ACC tournaments to have been played since 1983, the Tar Heels have won 22 of them.


UNC defeats reigning champion Old Dominion in penalty strokes 2-1 to take home its first NCAA title. The Monarchs had won four of the last eight championships, with head coach Beth Anders, a former Olympic teammate of Shelton, at the helm. The game was the last championship match to play through three overtime periods.


UNC wins three-straight NCAA titles, defeating Maryland 5-1, Princeton 3-0 and Old Dominion 3-2. The Tar Heels went undefeated in 1995 for the first perfect season of Shelton’s career.

Nov. 18, 2007

UNC defeats Penn State 3-0 to win its fifth national title and first in 10 years. The Tar Heels finished the year 24-0, marking Shelton’s second perfect season.

Nov. 22, 2009

UNC defeats the previously unbeaten Maryland 3-2 to win the program’s second national title in three years. Down 2-1 in the fourth quarter, Shelton pulled the goalkeeper in favor of an extra field player, and the Tar Heels went on to score twice in the final five minutes to clinch the victory.

Sept. 14, 2015

Erin Matson, the youngest member of the U-21 National Team, commits to UNC at just 15 years old.

Aug. 25, 2018

UNC defeats Michigan 5-1 in the team’s first game in its new stadium, starting a three-season unbeaten streak in the facility. A month later, the stadium was named in honor of Shelton, becoming the first UNC athletic facility to be named after a woman.

Nov. 18, 2018

UNC wins the national championship against Maryland 2-0 after another perfect season with a 23-0 record. Matson, who scored one of the goals, became just the second UNC first-year to earn a first-team All-America selection.

Nov. 24, 2019

UNC plays another undefeated season, this time beating Princeton 6-1 in the title game. Matson is named Most Outstanding Player and goes on to win the Honda Sport Award, given to the nation’s best field hockey player.

Oct. 2, 2020

In the second game of the season, UNC is defeated for the first time since 2017 in a 1-3 loss at Louisville. The Tar Heels went on to win their next 18, including seven overtime games.

Nov. 6, 2020

Shelton reaches 701 career wins with a victory over Syracuse in the ACC Tournament semifinals, surpassing retired UConn coach Nancy Stevens to become the winningest coach in NCAA field hockey history.

May 9, 2021

North Carolina defeats Michigan 4-3 in Karen Shelton Stadium to capture its ninth national title, with Matson scoring the game-winning overtime goal.

@dthsports |


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