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UNC field hockey head coach Karen Shelton announces retirement after 42 seasons at North Carolina


UNC field hockey head coach Karen Shelton answers questions at the George J. Sherman Sports Complex in Storrs, Conn., following UNC's win over Northwestern in the 2022 national championship.

On Wednesday, UNC field hockey head coach Karen Shelton met with her team to announce her retirement. Shelton — the winningest coach in the history of collegiate field hockey — has coached at North Carolina for 42 seasons and has led the Tar Heels to an NCAA-record 10 national championships.

"I don't have the words for what it has meant to represent the University of North Carolina for the past 42 years," Shelton said in a press release from the University on Wednesday. "The decision to retire is an extremely difficult one, but I feel like it's the right time, on the heels of an outstanding season."

In her last season at North Carolina, Shelton coached the Tar Heels to a 21-0 record and NCAA Title.

Shelton is leaving UNC after an illustrious career that includes 745 wins and NCAA records in tournament appearances (39), victories (77) and games played (106). 

She's also been particularly successful in recent years. Since the completion of Karen Shelton Stadium (Shelton is the only NCAA DI field hockey coach ever to coach in a facility named for her) in 2018, the team has posted a 99-8 record. Of the team's 10 national championships, four have come in 2018 or later.

"Karen Shelton is, quite simply, an icon of Carolina Athletics," UNC Director of Athletics Bubba Cunningham said in a press release from the University on Wednesday. "Her legacy is more than her phenomenal 10 national championships and 745 victories – it's about the hundreds of women who have gone on to successful lives and careers, and continued to credit her influence many years after playing for her."

As of now, UNC field hockey's next head coach has not been named. The University reported on Wednesday that its "national search for the program's next coach will begin immediately and Shelton will remain the program's head coach until a successor is named."


@dthsports |

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Shelby Swanson

Shelby Swanson is the 2023-24 sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as an assistant sports editor and senior writer. Shelby is a junior pursuing a double major in media and journalism and Hispanic literatures and cultures.