Erin Matson is one of just a handful of high school sophomores to have already made a verbal commitment to play NCAA Division I field hockey beginning fall, 2018. For Matson — who was wooed by the top programs throughout the US — the decision has been made: she will attend and play at the University of North Carolina, currently ranked #3 in the nation. In 2014, the Tar Heels advanced to the semi-finals of the NCAA National Championship.
I caught up with Matson to discuss her selection to the United States Field Hockey U-21 National Team last month. Matson is one of five high school players on the team and is the youngest, at age 15.
Despite her youth, Matson’s hockey experience includes paying on a high caliber high school program, the #1 club in the country, the USA Women’s National Indoor Team, and USA Field Hockey Junior National Teams. She’s traveled in the US and abroad with her stick in hand and with the confidence – but definitely not arrogance – of a seasoned pro.
Watching Matson play is incredible; she maneuvers with adept stickwork, field vision, and a composure that defies her age. “People say that I’m very serious when I play and I am. I mean, when I get on the field, I’m just ready to play and put absolutely everything into it,” shared Matson. “It’s time to get stuff done!” Matson also points out that her teammates would likely describe her as energetic. “You can’t just think about yourself; you have to be aware of what your teammates are thinking and have to get them excited,” shared Matson. “I take it upon myself to be a leader in that regard. I mean, we have seniors who are captains and they are great but I can help too by giving positive reinforcement and lifting my teammates’ spirits.” Despite graduating nine players in 2014, many of whom went on to play collegiately, Matson said that Unionville’s goal is to win Districts. “And,” she added, “I really think we can win State.”
It’s evident that Matson is highly motivated; her ultimate goal, she says, is “to play in the Olympics and represent my country — and to even win Gold.” With that goal comes a lot of training which Matson embrasses with enthusiasm. “My dad is a physical therapist and he’s really into working out and helps me a lot with strength and conditioning and everything. I really like both strength and cardio; they’re different but you feel so amazing with both.”
Olympic goal aside, Matson is a normal high school sophomore. In August, she learned the news of being named to the USA U-21 Squad from a friend’s text. “I had to look it up first and then I texted my Dad. I was just so happy. We all went to dinner to celebrate,” Matson shared. Along with being excited about making the squad, Matson is definitely pumped about hanging out with friends and Friday night football games at Unionville. “It’s great when your friends from the football and baseball teams come to your games, and you go to theirs. There’s a lot of school spirit here.”
Juggling personal field hockey training in preparation for USA Field Hockey, after-school practices and games with Unionville, and Friday night football games seems like a lot, but for Matson it’s all worth it. “I really love this game. I’ve played other sports but hockey has just always been it for me. I just love playing.”
“(At USA Field Hockey), we talk about being a 24/7 athlete” continued Matson. “And that means staying focused on our sleep, nutrition, fitness level and stickwork so that when we’re all together again, we’re right at the point where we left off.” There is no question whatsoever: Matson will be more than ready when the U-21 Squad convenes in November.
Graduation Year: 2018
High School: Unionville High School
Club: W C Eagles
Position: Midfield / Attack
College Commitment: #3 University of North Carolina
NCAA Division I / Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC)
(committed September 14 , 2015)
Intended major: Business
Why did you choose UNC? “I first fell in love with UNC when I was just 12 years old and attended college summer camp there. Since then, I have visited so many other incredible colleges numerous times, but every time I step foot back on campus at UNC, it just feels right, and I know it is the best fit for me. UNC has the perfect mix of strong academics and athletics, and being surrounded by so many amazing coaches and student-athletes is very exciting to me. The Kenan-Flagler Business School also has one of the top undergraduate business programs in the country.”
Field Hockey Honors: USA U21 Junior National Team Selection, U21 Junior National Camp, Young Women’s National Championship; U19 Junior National Team Belgium Tour, U19 Junior National Team Selection; U17 Junior National Team Selection; USA Field Hockey Futures Elite Championship; USA Field Hockey Junior National Camp; AAU Junior Olympics Selection; USA Women’s National Indoor Team Indoor Pan-American Games (Uruguay – Bronze Medal), USA Women’s National Indoor Team Germany, Canada and Argentina Tours; W C Eagles New Zealand Tour and China National Youth Championships (Silver Medal); W C Eagles National Club Champions (2012-15), W C Eagles NIT Pool Champions (2012-15); W C Eagles Disney Showcase Flight Champions (2012-15); W C Eagles National Hockey Festival Pool Champions (2011-13); Unionville High School – PIAA District 1 AAA Champions; PFHCA First Team All-State, First Team All-Area, First Team All-Ches-Mont League; MAX Field Hockey National High School Top 10 Super Sophomores, MAX Field Hockey PA/NJ Region High School Players-to-Watch, MAX Field Hockey PA/NJ High School All-Region Team
Other sports and activities: “I started out playing travel softball before I started playing club field hockey and I also played basketball for a few years when I was younger. I am a member of the Students Helping Other Classmates (SHOC) mentor program at Unionville High School and I like to help coach some of the younger players at W C Eagles when I can.”
Best field hockey moment: “I have so many memorable field hockey moments that it is very hard to pick one that I would say was the absolute best moment. I think two of my most recent memorable field hockey moments are verbally committing to play field hockey at UNC and making the U21 Junior National Team this past summer. I will also always remember my first international bronze medal representing the USA Women’s National Indoor Team at the Indoor Pan American Games in Uruguay since the medal was decided by a shootout. My first Festival out in Phoenix, Arizona with W C Eagles was very memorable too because we were the younger U16 team and had to fight as a team to win every game and ultimately a Gold medal. Finally, winning Districts with my Unionville High School team last year as a freshman is a moment I will never forget. We had an amazing senior class and such great team chemistry, and it was a very special season.”
Field hockey goals: “My field hockey goals are to continue to work hard, grow as a player, represent the USA in international competitions, and win gold for my country at the Olympics. When I step on the field for UNC in a few years, my goal is to do whatever I can to help my team win an NCAA Championship. The same holds true for W C Eagles and my Unionville High School team – to push myself, help my teammates and always compete to win.”
Giving thanks: “There are so many people to thank. First, I would like to thank Richard and Jun Kentwell, Guy Cathro, Mark Foster, and the rest of the W C Eagles coaching staff for teaching me and for all of their support and confidence in me as a player. Next, I would like to thank Karen Shelton, Grant Fulton and Laree Beans for giving me the incredible opportunity to be a Tar Heel and play field hockey in college at UNC. I would also like to thank Janneke Schopman, Jamie Montgomery, Ainslee Lamb, Tamara Durante, Denise Zelenak, Nicky Hitchens and all of the other amazing coaches I have had the privilege to learn from at different USA Field Hockey events and as part of the USA Indoor and Outdoor National Team pipeline. Of course I would like to thank my family for their endless support, especially my dad who always helps me practice and train even when I know he is tired, and my younger brother, Sean, who always tells me how proud he is of me and bought more gear than I did at the UNC bookstore. Finally, I would like to thank every one of my teammates for being great ‘sisters’ and pushing me to be a better player, teammate and person.”
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