UNC Field Hockey: Ryleigh Heck named National Player of the Year

The UNC field hockey star followed in her now coach's footsteps by earning the National Player of the Year Award from the NFHCA.

Northwestern v North Carolina
Northwestern v North Carolina / Andrew Katsampes/ISI Photos/GettyImages

On Friday, the National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) announced its top student-athlete awards for the 2023 season.

To no surprise, a UNC field hockey star took home the biggest honor

Forward Ryleigh Heck was named the NFHCA National Player of the Year. The Ocean City, New Jersey native becomes the third UNC field hockey player to win the award over the last five seasons, as she follows the footsteps of her now coach, Erin Matson, who won the award in 2019, 2020 and 2022.

During the 2023 season, Heck led the Tar Heels in scoring with 34 points on 13 goals and eight assists. A first-team All-ACC pick for the second year in a row, she was the MVP of the ACC Tournament as Carolina won its seventh consecutive title in a row.

In the deciding NCAA title game, Heck scored the deciding goal in the sudden death penalty shootout to clinch the Tar Heels' fifth national championship over the past six seasons.

As only a sophomore, Heck has already solidified her legacy as a member of the UNC field hockey program. Earning the National Player of the Year Award guarantees that Heck's No. 12 will be retired once her career comes to a close, as she still has plenty of time in her collegiate career to add to her already impressive resume.

With Matson transitioning from star player to coach, the UNC field hockey program didn't miss a beat, as Heck stepped up to become the leader of this year's squad. Even with some drastic changes happening within the program, the dominance has yet to change, thanks in large part to what Heck was able to do in her second season with the program.

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