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UNC field hockey and women's tennis teams honored at White House

fockey wten white house

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletic Communications. Members of the UNC field hockey and women's tennis teams pose for a picture at the White House on Monday, May 12, 2023.

On Monday, June 12, the UNC women’s tennis and field hockey teams visited the White House to participate in the College Athlete Day celebration and to celebrate their respective national championships. 

North Carolina women’s tennis won their first national championship in the program's history over their rival N.C. State, 4-1, in May. UNC women’s field hockey claimed the program's 10th national championship, defeating Northwestern, 2-1, in November.

Several individuals welcomed the captains from each national championship team to the stage, including Vice President Kamala Harris and the second gentleman, Douglas Emhoff. 

Sophia Patel, the captain of the women’s tennis team, and Erin Matson, former captain of the field hockey team and now head coach, represented their teams on stage during the ceremony.

“I was looking around like, 'Holy cow, there are so many national champions here, I feel like a small fish in a big pond right now,'” Patel said. 

The two North Carolina teams found out just two weeks before the event that they would be recognized at the White House, leaving some teammates and coaches unable to attend, Patel said. 

However, during their five-hour bus ride to the nation's capital, field hockey rising senior midfielder Katie Dixon said athletes from both teams bonded and were able to trade their shared experience of winning a national championship.

“I think it’s great and it shows how UNC is honestly just dominating in sports right now,” Dixon said. "It's awesome."

The president of the NCAA, Charlie Barker — formerly the governor of Massachusetts — gave the opening remarks at the ceremony.  

“You all made it to what we might call the top of the pile, but you represent half a million collegiate athletes who are part of this wonderful, beautiful thing called sports,” Barker said.

Harris and Emhoff then approached the podium, and Harris spoke about the trials and sacrifices required of the athletes to commit their lives to their sport. 

“Only the best of the best become a national champion, and that is you all," Harris said. "When you take the court, you inspire so many across our country, people you may never meet, not only because of how you play, but because of who each of you is. Every day, you remind all of us of what we can achieve when we work hard and strive with ambition."

The teams then met with U.S. Rep. Valerie Foushee (D-N.C. 4th), who represents Chapel Hill and surrounding areas in Congress.

Dixon said being able to see the other teams represented at the White House helped her realize just how special it is to win an NCAA championship.

Rising senior Kiersten Thomassey, a midfielder on the field hockey team, said the visit to the White House displayed the continued growth of women's sports.

“It was a symbol of how important sports are, and how far sports, specifically women’s sports, have come in America,” Thomassey said.

@Jordangoochi

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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