The Daily Tar Heel
Printing news. Raising hell. Since 1893.
Saturday, May 18, 2024 Newsletters Latest print issue

We keep you informed.

Help us keep going. Donate Today.
The Daily Tar Heel

USA field hockey denies Erin Matson a tryout for 2024 Olympic team

11192023_richards_SPORTS-FHOCKEY-vs-Northwestern-47-3.jpg

Coach Erin Matson celebrates with friends and family after the NCAA field hockey championship game against Northwestern. UNC won in penalty shootouts with a score of 3-2.

At the age of 24, Erin Matson already has an impressive resume.

As a player on UNC's field hockey team, she was a four-time national champion, three-time national player of the year and the career scoring leader in ACC and NCAA tournament history. 

In her first season as the UNC field hockey head coach, Matson led North Carolina to ACC and NCAA titles — becoming the youngest championship-winning head coach in Division I history.

So, what’s the next move for the most decorated player in UNC history?

With the 2024 Paris Olympics around the corner, it would seem like Matson would be preparing for the games with the rest of Team USA — a team she has been a part of since the age of 17.

However, in a statement released by Matson on Thursday, she said she was denied the opportunity to even tryout for the team, despite meeting all eligibility criteria outlined by USA Field Hockey bylaws. 

According to a statement released by USA Field Hockey on Friday, there are two paths for athletes to earn a spot on the Team USA roster. The first is by an invite-only tryout that was held in early 2023. The second is through “ongoing observation” by the selection committee. 

Erin was invited by USA Field Hockey to tryout in early 2023, but turned down the opportunity, which established the main pool of candidates for potential selection,” the statement said. “Subsequently, Erin has not played in national or international competitions necessary to be evaluated on an ongoing basis since the original selection of the centralized athlete pool in early 2023.”

Matson did not address USA Field Hockey’s claim that she turned down the 2023 tryout. Instead, she stated she requested a try out in February 2024, but USA Field Hockey chose not to grant her that opportunity.

She said USA Field Hockey asked her to travel to Charlotte last week to discuss the 2026 World Cup and 2028 Los Angeles Olympic Games — which she declined because she felt it unfair to take away the organization's focus from athletes who are training for the 2024 games. 

Matson’s inability to tryout for the team caused an uproar. UNC Board of Trustees chair John Preyer, trustee Jennifer Halsey Evans and UNC Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham all voiced their support.

“Why is US Field Hockey denying the greatest American player in history a chance to compete for a spot on the Olympic team?” Preyer wrote in a statement.

Only last month, Matson was repping a Team USA jersey at the 2024 Indoor Pan American Cups in Calgary, Canada. She scored two goals as the United States finished first, and her efforts in a post-overtime shootout helped the team bring home the gold medal.

After the win, Matson’s tweet was simple.

Matson’s family also took to social media to express disappointment in the decision. Her father, Brian Matson, responded to USA Field Hockey and said, “Your decision to not offer a tryout was your choice, not a selection criteria issue.”

Matson’s father went on to say that no special exception was requested and the decision to ban her from tryouts “was a choice not restricted by the language in your selection policy.”

In her statement, Matson called for change in the system, saying that she believes USA Field Hockey “should be focused on naming the strongest possible roster in order to be successful on the world stage.”

To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.

In the meantime, Matson will continue to focus on North Carolina and the last two spring season games in their schedule. 

“My request wasn’t to be an Olympian; my request was to allow me to try out," Matson wrote in her statement. "USA Field Hockey chose not to grant me that opportunity. Although it leaves my heart heavy, I have moved forward.”

@mayawaid

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com