UMSL Athletics, volunteers pitch in to create positive environment during Midwest Region Championship

by | Dec 4, 2023

UMSL community members from across campus welcomed visiting teams, sold concessions and merchandise, produced digital livestreams and more.
UMSL Athletics, volunteers pitch in to create positive environment during Midwest Region Championship

by | Dec 4, 2023

UMSL community members from across campus welcomed visiting teams, sold concessions and merchandise, produced digital livestreams and more.
Members of the UMSL volleyball team celebrates the clinching point in their Midwest Region Championship victory over Ferris State as the crowd erupts behind them

Members of the UMSL volleyball team celebrates the clinching point in their Midwest Region Championship victory over Ferris State as the crowd erupts behind them on Saturday at the Mark Twain Athletic Center. (Photo by Patrick Clark/Athlete’s Eye Photography)

All eyes were on the fourth-ranked University of Missouri–St. Louis volleyball team this past weekend as it hosted the Division II NCAA Midwest Region Tournament at the Mark Twain Athletic Center.

The Tritons put on a show for the weekend’s 1,000 spectators, dispatching eighth-seeded Missouri S&T, fifth-seeded Grand Valley State and second-seeded Ferris State to clinch the team’s second consecutive Midwest Region Championship and subsequently earn a spot in the national quarterfinals.

However, behind the scenes, a team of UMSL Athletics staff members, student-athletes and student volunteers were working around the clock to ensure the three-day event ran smoothly.

Director of Athletics Lori Flanagan said the regional tournament was a considerable endeavor.

Sam Bunn sets up livestream at computer

Sam Bunn, a computer science student, sets up the broadcast livestream before the Ferris State-Rockhurst game Friday afternoon during the Division II NCAA Midwest Region Tournament. Bunn was one of many volunteers who worked around the clock to make sure the three-day event ran smoothly. (Photos by Derik Holtmann)

“Any time you put a bid in to host an NCAA regional championship, it’s a huge undertaking because you have to provide a fair opportunity for all eight teams coming in,” Flanagan said. “You have to have people very, very knowledgeable in what they’re doing. You just have no room for error. You have to get the coordination of every department on campus to help you, which includes campus police, custodians, food services, student life, facilities, maintenance, even the Triton Sound.”

UMSL put in a bid for the regional earlier this season, and Department of Athletics staff members met for six weeks to discuss logistics, including game broadcasts, campus signage, hotel contracts and online ticketing. Even with prior preparation, the department only had less than a week to put its plan into action after being awarded the regional.

“You’ve got everything lined up, and you just really have to trust that things that you have ready to go can get turned around in a short amount of time,” Flanagan said. “You need all groups to really pull together and help.”

Luckily, Flanagan had plenty of support preparing for about 1,200 attendees – athletes, coaching staffs, media members and spectators – to descend upon campus over the three-day period. She said everybody in the department – from the administrative staff to medical trainers – contributed in some capacity. In particular, she highlighted the efforts of student-athletes and student volunteers.

“We asked student-athletes to be hosts for each visiting team,” Flanagan said. “They greeted the teams as they arrived on campus. They brought them into our building. They showed them where their locker rooms were. They stayed with them while they practiced. They met them every day whether it was for a practice or a game.”

Student-athletes and student volunteers – including sport management majors who earned service-learning hours during the tournament – also sold concessions, merchandise and tickets, produced the digital livestreams and helped shag balls during practices and games.

Sport management students sell tickets before the start of the semifinal match between Rockhurst and Ferris State on Friday afternoon

Sport management students sell tickets before the start of the semifinal volleyball match between Rockhurst and Ferris State on Friday afternoon in the lobby of the Mark Twain Athletic Center. The sport management students worked in a variety of roles throughout the weekend to help the Department of Athletics host the NCAA Division II Midwest Region tournament. (Photo by Derik Holtmann)

“The really nice thing is you could give the student groups directions as to what to do, and they just knew how to do it and get it done,” Flanagan said. “They were just so instrumental and helpful.”

Staff members such as Jackie Warren, the director of Residential Life and Housing, pitched in as well. Warren is an avid sports fan and attends as many UMSL athletic events as possible. As Warren watched the Tritons dominate on the court during the regular season, she spoke with Flanagan about the possibility of the university hosting the regional.

“Lori had asked, ‘If they were to host the regional, would I want to help?’” Warren recalled. “Instantly, I stated, ‘Yes!’ I was super excited to help where I could for multiple reasons – watch great volleyball, welcome guests to UMSL and cheer on our Tritons. Additionally, UMSL Athletics has been a great campus partner with Residential Life and Housing, and I strongly believe in supporting campus colleagues and students when large events and special occasions are happening.”

During the tournament, Warren was stationed in the hospitality room, where she kept the area stocked with food and drinks for coaches, media members, referees, tournament staff and VIPs. She also helped welcome guests from visiting schools and answered questions as they arose.

Chancellor Kristin Sobolik expressed her appreciation for the effort of everyone who contributed to putting on the tournament.

“Athletics is a front door to our university, and this tournament showcases our beautiful campus and excellent athletic facilities for others that might not have experienced our campus,” Sobolik said. “Our team is top notch with great coaching, training and athletic administrative support. I am also pleased with how our campus community has come out to support the Tritons.”

Overall, Flanagan said she was pleased with how well the tournament came together and credited UMSL fans for helping create a positive atmosphere

“If you don’t get any complaints, you know you’ve done a really good job, and we did not have any complaints,” she said. “We feel that we put on a class A event, and we feel that the fans really enjoyed their experience here.”

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