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The Daily Tar Heel

Expectations for UNC field hockey remains high, despite coaching, personnel changes

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UNC head coach Erin Matson applauds after a Tar Heel score during the exhibition field hockey match against Duke at Karen Shelton Stadium on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. UNC won 5-3.

Standards.

That’s what new North Carolina field hockey head coach Erin Matson and her players are keeping in mind as they gear up for the upcoming season.

With a new head coach at the helm, the Tar Heels are having to adjust to an updated playing style; however, the standards are still the same.

After former head coach Karen Shelton’s tenure at North Carolina, the expectations remain high. Despite being Matson’s former teammates, the players treat their new leader with the same amount of respect as they did Shelton.

“We still have the same standards," sophomore midfielder Ryleigh Heck said. "[Matson] makes the team better by having played with us.”

In addition to a new head coach, the Tar Heels filled the vacancy of former associate head coach Grant Fulton with new assistant coach Tim Broenink. Broenink, a native of the Netherlands, was formerly an assistant coach at Syracuse for two years.

UNC field hockey head coach Erin Matson and new assistant coach Tim Broenink walk off the field at halftime of the exhibition field hockey match against Duke at Karen Shelton Stadium on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023. UNC won 5-3.

Coaching realignment is not the only housekeeping that the Tar Heels have had to worry about though. With Matson moving from the field to the sidelines, a big question still remains as to who will step up as the primary goal-scorer. 

“Ryleigh Heck is the first one that comes to mind,” Matson said. “She’s so creative on the ball, she’s patient, she’s super smart, so she makes things happen.”

The Tar Heels have also added five new players to their arsenal, including first-year Charly Bruder. Bruder is a member of the U.S. U-21 national team and will participate in the 2023 Junior World Cup in December. Bruder said that the experience has been very valuable for her playing style.

“It’s been so amazing seeing different styles of plays from different countries and playing with some of the best players all over the country,” she said.

Bruder and the group of new players will be key in filling the void that was left by the players who graduated last year.

Despite the many changes made to the roster and coaching staff, the Tar Heels said they feel just as united as last year’s championship-winning squad did. Heck said that this year’s adjustments have not changed the mentality of the team.

The new coaching staff is intent on making sure the team is unified off the field as well. Over the summer, the team held its annual lake day, where the players were given their 2022 National Championship rings and had the chance to relax with each other and their parents.

“It’s great for us to have a day where we can just kick back and spend time together,” Matson said. “It’s nice to switch it up and allow the parents some time with us and just take a breath.”

There is no doubt that this year’s field hockey team looks different than that of the previous years. With new leaders both on and off the field, the Tar Heels have prepared for the season ahead.

“The same mentality — that has been how it was for 42 years — is just worrying about the next game and taking care of the business in the given moment,” Matson said.

While the team has a national championship in mind, Matson's coaching mentality is the same as her predecessor's: focus on what is next.

@j_kidd03

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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