One last shot: My experience at the MAAC tournament

Morgan Tencza, Photography Editor

Quinnipiac basketball has brought me to four MAAC basketball championships and two NCAA tournament trips where I had the opportunity to photograph for The Quinnipiac Chronicle.

My first two years covering the basketball tournaments were pretty standard but exciting and insightful. The Chronicle would send three writers and a photographer to the arena. In years past it was the Times Union Center in Albany, New York. We would cover the tournament for the entirety of Quinnipiac’s run. Both years, the women’s basketball team dominated the MAAC tournament. Even though the men’s team never made it past the semifinals, the women’s team got to lift the trophy in 2018 and 2019.

In March 2020, two writers and I made the trip down to the Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, the new home of the MAAC tournament. We arrived on Tuesday, March 10, the first day of gameplay, though Quinnipiac’s teams weren’t scheduled to play until Thursday since both earned a first-round bye.

Quinnipiac celebrates a good play during their last game of the season Morgan Tencza

The world came to a crashing halt Thursday afternoon, just as the women’s team was about to come out for pregame warmups. COVID-19 finally spread to the United States and leagues, schools and businesses across the country shut down one after another.

Media gathered into the press conference where MAAC Commissioner Rich Ensor canceled the remainder of the tournament and spring sports season.

After having to leave without covering a game in 2020, I was not going to miss out on my senior year MAAC basketball tournament. At this year’s competition, I not only got to cover Quinnipiac’s two games, with both losing in their first matchup, but I also shot five additional games.

My experience this year was certainly different than my previous two rounds. I did not have floor access, I had to shoot from the stands and I did not have access to the athletes. It was definitely a strange experience, but I saw it as more of a challenge.

With the different limitations, I explored my creative skillset and added a bigger lens to allow me to get better photos in my new seating position. It was certainly a learning experience for me to shoot basketball in a completely new way with different equipment, but I was able to grow as a photographer in such a short time.

It was hard to say goodbye to two teams I have been able to follow for the past four seasons. I have watched so many Bobcats grow as players and leaders. I saw senior forward Jacob Rigoni grow from a strong 3-point shooter to a well-rounded player who was a tremendous leader on and off the court. I watched a team of incredibly talented and strong-willed women absolutely reign over the MAAC and reach the NCAA tournament in 2018 and 2019, where they put up a strong fight against college basketball giants UConn and South Dakota State. I got to know the players and coaches of both teams well over the past four seasons, and it has been an incredible experience.

I am so thankful to The Chronicle for giving me the chance to enhance my photography skills over the years and allow me to attend such important tournaments to cover basketball. It has been so great being able to capture two fantastic teams at the MAAC tournaments and beyond, even if the past two seasons have brought challenging experiences.