Sacred Heart graduate students Shannon Szefinski and Shannon Torres along with junior Evan Cormier were given the opportunity to volunteer at the Bridgeport Regional games of the 2022 National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I women’s basketball tournament. This included two Sweet Sixteen games and an Elite Eight game.
The University of Connecticut (UConn) and Fairfield University hosted the Bridgeport Regional portion of the NCAA tournament at Total Mortgage Arena, formerly known as Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, CT.
“We had applied for credentials to see if we could take videos and photos at the game, but our request was denied due to NCAA rules,” said Szefinski. “Then someone from the Event Management department reached out to us to explain the situation with the NCAA and asked if we’d like to help out as volunteers for Media Relations.”
Their jobs varied day to day depending on what was needed for the games.
“On practice days, I sat in on team and coach press conferences then made copies of the transcripts to hand out to the media representatives in attendance,” said Szefinski. “On game days, I assisted with distributing media credentials then I would get to watch the game courtside until I had to help with post-game press conferences.”
One of the main jobs that Cormier took on was the role of a runner, with the primary goal of acting as general assistants to the production staff.
“During TV timeouts, we made copies of the stats then handed them out to the broadcasters on press row so that they could give updates during the game,” said Cormier. “I also assisted during press conferences and helped hand out credentials to the media.”
The quarterfinal matchup between the UConn Huskies and North Carolina State University Wolfpack was the first Elite Eight game or later to go into double overtime. The game ended in a UConn victory by a score of 91 – 87.
“It was a surreal experience,” said Torres. “Seeing the crowd so loud and excited and being able to share this experience with my friends was special.
Upon winning the Bridgeport Region, UConn made their fourteenth straight Final Four appearance under Coach Geno Auriemma.
“This was an amazing experience that I haven’t been able to fully comprehend yet,” said Szefinski. “I went into this not really knowing what to expect then all of a sudden, I’m five feet away from Geno Auriemma and escorting the Commissioner of the Big Ten Conference, Kevin Warren, to his seat!”
Although the women’s tournament has been held since 1982, the 2022 season marked the first year that the tournament was officially branded as March Madness, a title that only the men’s tournament had held for nearly four decades.
“It’s pretty special having even just a small role in this tournament, especially since it’s a women’s tournament,” said Szefinski. “In a way, I think we were a part of history because this was the first year the women’s tournament was referred to as March Madness.”
All the 2022 women’s March Madness tournament games are aired on the Entertainment and Sports Programming Network (ESPN) channels including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNEWS. The games are also streaming on the ESPN website, application, and FuboTV.
“Even though we were only volunteers and played a small role in such a big tournament, we got to network with people in our profession and who work at other schools and just talk about our goals,” said Torres. “I am nothing but thankful to be able to have an incredible experience working this tournament.”