Friday night lights. Packed stadium in a rivalry match. All eyes were on senior forward Erin Matson as she stepped up to the penalty spot looking to put Duke away for good.
Every fan, teammate and coach was thinking about how Matson was about to score her 100th goal — except for her.
Or at least she tried. A friendly reminder of the occasion from her grandfather put the thought in her head, but as she always does, she put that aside to focus on helping her team pick up a win against its rival.
“I don’t like to think about those things,” Matson said. “It was a thought, but it also was more importantly just nice to kinda stick it to Duke a little bit more than 3-1.”
With one swift motion, she launched the ball to the right of Duke’s goalkeeper for her third goal of the night to give the Tar Heels a 4-1 lead and all but seal the victory.
“We’re very proud of Erin,” head coach Karen Shelton said. “She is just so hard to stop, and she’s so creative and so unselfish, and she means an awful lot to our team.”
Matson's teammates had similar praises, citing how her competitive presence has a ripple effect on the rest of the Tar Heels.
“She’s an incredible leader for our team,” junior back Madison Orobono said. “She like knows when to fire us up, knows when to calm us down and like she’s just always there for everyone.”
Although Matson is praised by virtually every person in the North Carolina field hockey program, she knows she couldn't have accomplished this feat alone.
“I wouldn’t have the opportunity to score goals if it wasn’t for the person making the interception, the person passing me the ball or the person making the lead ahead,” Matson said. “Even though they’re technically my 100 goals, they’re all team efforts over the four years."
Matson is exactly what you look for in a leader and star player. Along with crediting her teammates with her accomplishments, she constantly pushes her team to keep improving every day.
“I love going against her in practice because she just makes me ten times better, so it’s just amazing and I’m really happy and thankful she’s on our team,” Orobono said.
Orobono and the defensive unit were locked in on Friday night, as first-year goalkeeper Abigail Taylor also added six saves to hold Duke scoreless after the eighth minute. Furthermore, three different Tar Heels had assists, including junior Paityn Wirth, who also drew the foul to set up Matson’s penalty stroke.
But on such a momentous occasion, it was Matson who earned the spotlight — and her family was there to see it.
“Having both of my parents there too was really special," Matson said. "So it was just a really special night with everybody, really memorable, and I don’t think it could have been any better.”
For everyone that knows Matson, however, she won’t stop there. She will continue scoring goals in pursuit of her fourth consecutive national championship.
But for now, she's cemented herself as one of the greats in UNC field hockey for a long time to come.
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