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UNC boasts at least two Honda Sport Award winners in Matson and Daavettila

Sara Daavettila (left) and Erin Matson (right) have both won the 2021 Honda Sport Award for their respective sports, tennis and field hockey.

For just the fourth time in the school’s history, North Carolina will have at least two recipients of the Honda Sport Award.

On Thursday, fifth-year senior Sara Daavettila was announced as this year’s recipient of the Honda Sport Award for Tennis. Daavettila joins fellow Tar Heel Erin Matson, who was named the winner of the field hockey award on June 2.

What is the Honda Sport Award?

The awards – which have been around since 1976 – are given annually to the top women athletes in twelve NCAA-sanctioned sports. The winners are determined by a voting panel of approximately 1,000 administrators from NCAA member schools.

The twelve recipients of the award become finalists for Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year, the winner of which will be presented with the 2021 Honda Cup.

UNC’s history with the awards

The Tar Heels boast past Honda Award winners from a wide array of sports, from cross country to lacrosse to soccer.

For a school to have more than one winner in a year is a rare accomplishment. The only other times Carolina Athletics has claimed multiple winners was in 1990 with Leslie Lyness for field hockey and Shannon Higgins for soccer, 2004 with Shalane Flanagan for cross country and Catherine Reddick for soccer, and in 2013 with Kara Cannizzaro for lacrosse and Crystal Dunn for soccer.

Never before has UNC had three winners in a year, but that has the potential to change as senior goalkeeper Taylor Moreno was named as a finalist for the lacrosse award on Monday. The winner of the lacrosse award will be announced next week.

UNC women’s tennis gets first Honda Award winner

Daavettila will be breaking ground as the first UNC athlete to win the award for tennis. After losing out on last year’s tournament because of COVID-19, the senior decided to use her extra year of eligibility and return for her fifth season at UNC.

Daavettila’s 149 career singles wins are tied for second-most in program history. Last season, she was ranked as high as No. 1 in the ITA national rankings, while winning Most Outstanding Player in the ITA indoor tournament and ACC Player of the Year.

Daavettila earned the top seed in the NCAA Singles Championship where she made the semifinals, and she has the most career quarterfinals appearances in program history with three.

Matson continues her dominance

Few Tar Heels have ever won the Honda Award back-to-back, but that’s just what Matson did after leading UNC field hockey to yet another championship.

It’s hard to overstate just how incredible the junior attacker’s run has been at UNC. She has won three championships in three years with the program and has only lost a game once in her college career.

Last season, Matson led the nation in goals per game with 1.45. She scored 29 goals last season, which accounted for nearly 45 percent of the team’s 65 goals. The next-highest scoring players were in a three-way tie with six goals each.

Considering Matson’s awe-inspiring numbers this past season, she should be in serious contention to be named the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year.

Soccer legend Mia Hamm is the only UNC athlete to have ever hoisted the Honda Cup. Like Matson, Hamm won consecutive Honda Awards in 1993 and 1994, the latter year being the one in which she won the cup.

This year’s awards ceremony will be broadcast on the CBS Sports Network on June 28 at 9 p.m. Whether or not UNC will come away with the cup, one thing is for certain: the Tar Heels will be well represented as their women’s sports programs make history once again.


@dthsports |

Lucas Thomae

Lucas Thomae is the 2023-24 sports managing editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as an assistant sports editor and summer editor. Lucas is a senior pursuing a major in journalism and media with a minor in data science.