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The Daily Tar Heel

The seniors that guided UNC field hockey to a national championship


UNC field hockey team celebrates their National Chamiponship victory against No. 3 Northwestern on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, at George J. Sherman Sports Complex in Storrs, Conn. UNC won 2-1. 

Erin Matson

UNC senior forward, Erin Matson (1) plays in the National Champion ship game against No. 3 Northwestern on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, at George J. Sherman Sports Complex in Storrs, Conn. UNC won 2-1. 

Throughout her career at UNC, Matson has proven herself to be the best field hockey player in UNC history, and arguably college history. In 2021, the ACC Network named her as one of the top female athletes in conference history. That's no surprise — Matson's five ACC Championships are more than any other program currently in the conference. She has also been named the ACC Offensive Player of the Year five years in a row, making her the only player in league history to hold this accolade for five consecutive years across any sport.

Matson finds herself sitting atop the UNC career goals list with 137, with a margin of more than 50 goals above the second-place holder. Matson also leads the pack in terms of career points, finishing her career with 337 points through 101 games.

She became the all-time leader in points and goals in NCAA Tournament play during Friday’s semifinal win against Penn State. As a dynamic forward, Matson sits in the third spot of the all-time NCAA Division I goal leaderboard. Scoring as many as four goals in a single game this season, Matson’s explosive offense was a spark for North Carolina across her five years in Chapel Hill. She’s also been a featured piece for the U.S. National Team since 2017.

With 1:19 left in the championship game against Northwestern, Matson again proved pivotal by scoring the game-winning goal off a ball from fellow senior Paityn Wirth, earning her the Most Outstanding Player award.

Meredith Sholder

UNC senior forward, Meredith Sholder (2), hits the ball during the game against No. 3 Northwestern on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, at George J. Sherman Sports Complex in Storrs, Conn. UNC won 2-1. 

Sholder has been a versatile weapon for the Tar Heels throughout her five years playing in Chapel Hill. She was named the 2022 ACC Defensive Player of the Year and ACC Tournament MVP and was a first-team All-ACC selection.

Excluding her redshirt year, Sholder played in every game in her six years at UNC and made herself a critical presence in the Tar Heel defense. She is commonly referred to by head coach Karen Shelton as UNC’s “unsung hero.”

Sholder, also a member of the U.S. National Team, was responsible for 14 goals throughout her career. Her 17 assists have come at times when the Tar Heels needed them the most. She had three assists in the Final Four during her sophomore year and assisted the game-winning goal in the 2018 National Championship. Sholder’s all-around athleticism was crucial to North Carolina’s success during her time as a Tar Heel, and she was also a three-time All-ACC Academic Team selection.

Romea Riccardo 

UNC senior back Romea Riccardo (11) shoots the ball during the NCAA Field Hockey Championship game against Northwestern in Storrs, Conn. on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022. UNC beat Northwestern 2-1.

Riccardo has been a consistent starter and back line powerhouse for the Tar Heels during her time in Chapel Hill. She tallied 22 assists and one goal through 81 games, of which Riccardo started 78.

Like Sholder, Riccardo’s assists often came at clutch moments. She assisted on the game-winning goal during a regular season matchup against Boston College in 2019, as well as in the second quarter of UNC’s NCAA Quarterfinal game against Saint Joseph’s this season. She scored the first goal of her UNC career in a win against Duke in 2020. Her stat sheet records may not stand out, but Riccardo’s presence on the back line has been crucial for the Tar Heels.

During the 2020-2021 season, her 0.50 assists per game tied the ACC lead. She established herself as one of the team’s leading stick-stoppers and quickly became a team leader in assists during her three years of action on the field. Riccardo has announced she will use her extra year of eligibility to return next season.

Paityn Wirth 

UNC senior forward, Paityn Wirth (10), celebrates the National Championship victory after the game against No. 3 Northwestern on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, at George J. Sherman Sports Complex in Storrs, Conn. UNC won 2-1. 

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As a Penn State transfer, Wirth did not shy away from becoming a huge asset for the Tar Heels during her three years of play with North Carolina. In the national championship game against Northwestern, she cemented her place in UNC history by assisting Erin Matson on the game-winning goal.

In her first season at UNC, she played in all 20 games and was responsible for six goals and nine assists. Wirth finished the season tied for second in both categories amongst the 2020-2021 UNC team. She was also named to the 2021-2022 U.S. National Team.

Throughout her North Carolina career, Wirth put the ball in the cage 13 times and racked up 21 assists. Notably, she was responsible for the push-in on the penalty corner on Matson’s game-winning goal in the 2021 ACC Championship against Virginia.

Wirth rounded out her senior season with five goals and nine assists. Wirth had the second highest number of assists during the 2022 season behind Matson and finished fourth in the team rankings for points. She was responsible for a huge goal in the 48th minute of UNC’s NCAA Semifinal game against Penn State that secured the Tar Heels’ spot in the National Championship. Wirth has an extra year of eligibility but hasn’t announced whether or not she will return.

Madison Orobono

UNC senior back Madison Orobono (5) blocks an opponent during a field hockey game against Appalachian State on Sunday, Aug. 14, 2022.

Orobono started every game during her career at North Carolina and established herself as an essential center back for UNC. She accounted for two goals and 15 assists on the field. And, in her junior season, she tied for second on the team in assists.

Her stick stop prior to Matson’s game-winning goal in the 2021 ACC Championship demonstrated her versatility to create plays on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. Orobono was named to the All-ACC Tournament Team during her first year and tallied her first career assist during a regular season game against Duke that same year. 

Orobono has proved herself to be an essential part of UNC’s roster throughout her four year stint as a Tar Heel. Orobono was also named to the U.S. National Team in 2021. Orobono has an extra year of eligibility but hasn’t announced whether or not she will return.


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