Ex-Fordham softball star Trivelpiece now a Patriot League MMJ

Ken Cara visited Hazelton High School (PA) softball practice in 2015 with his fingers crossed. He was hoping one of the players would be willing to interview her teammates for Cara’s Internet sports show.

“I said, ‘Does anyone want to host a segment?'” Cara recalls. One player quickly stepped forward and stated, “I got this.”

Maria Trivelpiece hasn’t stopped talking sports since. Her newest opportunity is covering NCAA athletics as a Sports Multi-Media Journalist for the Patriot League.

“I will be hosting interviews and preview shows in the Patriot League studio,” she says. “I will also be working on long-form feature stories on student-athletes across the Patriot League and covering championships.”

Sports background

Trivelpiece’s own athletic career will serve her well. She was a team captain and all-conference softball player at Fordham University.

“[It] has been a career goal of mine to work my way back into the realm. Having the opportunity to tell long form feature stories and still do on-camera work is so exciting,” she enthuses.

The seed for Trivelpiece’s new opportunity was planted last year, before she was hired as a sports and news anchor/reporter at WAGM TV in Presque Isle, Maine in December.

“I established a connection at the Patriot League over a year ago,” she recounts. “I just made sure to keep in touch with them throughout my time in Maine. When the job opened up, they told me about it, and I applied. And after many interviews, I got it!!”

Relationship building

Trivelpiece credits relationship building and repetitions with helping her land the job. “I literally would not be here without connecting with people and staying in touch with them,” she states. “I also took a chance by taking a position in a smaller market where I could be on camera every single day. It forced me to get better and made me a little bit more qualified. I still have a lot of room to grow, but this improvement was so helpful.”

Creating genuine connections is Trivelpiece’s secret sauce for relationship building. “When you speak with people, actually get to know them as human beings. Be authentic. You want them to care about you as a human being and you should do the same.”

Organization is another key to Trivelpiece’s approach. “Keep a list of dates and emails you send. I have an Excel sheet that reminds me when to reach out to people — even family members because we never realize how fast time passes. I usually reach out via email.”

Varied experience

Trivelpiece’s path from Hazelton High to the Patriot League included many stops. She graduated from Fordham in 2019 with a B.A. in Journalism and Psychology. She then attended Syracuse for a year, where she earned a B.S. in Broadcast and Digital Journalism. After that, her work included freelance opportunities as a sideline reporter and color analyst for the Big East Digital Network/Fox Sports.

Now the former college softball standout is covering NCAA athletics. It’s a career path that Ken Cara could have predicted for Trivelpiece on the high school softball field six years ago.

Relationship building helps Fitzgerald to new post at St. Mary’s

Play-by-play broadcaster Tim Fitzgerald always takes time to say hello to the broadcasters and sports information directors from opposing schools. That relationship building is paying off. Fitzgerald is the new Sports Information Director and broadcaster at St. Mary’s College in Moraga, CA.

The Gaels are members of the Western Athletic Conference. Fitzgerald will be the SID for both genders of soccer and tennis, along with women’s basketball, golf, and baseball. He adds excitedly, “There will be broadcast opportunities for all sports as well.”

Fitzgerald joins St. Mary’s after seven years at nearby Cal State University Maritime. He was the voice of Keelhaulers men’s & women’s basketball and men’s soccer.

Relationship building

One of the sports information directors Fitzgerald befriended is fellow STAA member Brian Brownfield. The pair were together in the CalPac conference when Brownfield was at Menlo College. They continued their friendship after Brownfield moved to St. Mary’s. Fitzgerald was paying attention when Brownfield was promoted this summer.

“I reached out to him after he announced his promotion to see if an opportunity was available. He said there was and I applied,” Fitzgerald recalls.

Relationship building is something that did not always come easily to Fitzgerald. “I used to be the artist who did his performing but didn’t network,” he remembers. “I found the way for that to feel natural is by just being me and getting over that first-interaction fear. I didn’t feel bound to some networking formula or moves from a book. And by still being me in my networking I have good relationships with my fellow SIDs.

“Brian and I have always been eager to give help each other out with no expectations of anything in return.”

Longtime STAA member

Fitzgerald has been an STAA member since 2012. “STAA has taught me how to prepare and hunt for a job in this very unique industry. I’ve learned what hiring managers are looking for in a demo, resume, and cover letter, and ways to constantly get better at my work.”

Now Fitzgerald is taking what he’s learned across Northern California’s Suisun Bay. “It’s a phenomenal opportunity to move up to a DI mid major, right here in the Bay Area, cover baseball again, be on the West Coast Conference Network, and work with someone I already have a rapport with,” he enthuses.

Zwirb taking Emrick, Walton influence to Team Maryland

Matthew Zwirb grew up admiring hockey broadcasters Doc Emrick and Washington Capitols voice John Walton. He loved how they called big moments. Zwirb will now also be calling big moments. He is launching his own hockey play-by-play career with Team Maryland of the Eastern Hockey League.

“I connect with the voices that I grew up listening to,” Zwirb says. “I watched Doc calling games on TV and listened to John Walton on the radio. Hearing the big moments’ drove a deep desire within me to have moments like those.”

Home ice

STAA members were emailed several EHL opportunities. Zwirb applied with Team Maryland because it is closest to his home near Washington D.C. He explains, “Team Maryland is within driving distance and a team that fits my needs to continue to develop as a broadcaster without having to worry about tons of other responsibilities within the organization.”

College experience

A 2021 graduate of Liberty University, Zwirb broadcast Flames hockey all four of his years on the Lynchburg, VA campus. He also hosts a podcast about the team.

“I learned the ropes of preparation and play-by-play so I feel that I can step into this position with confidence,” Zwirb smiles.

In addition to Emrick and Walton’s influence, playing hockey while growing up also fuels Zwirb’s love for broadcasting the sport. “I have a greater appreciation for the game because I have been on both sides of hockey, playing and broadcasting.”

That experience on the ice and on the mike has prepared Zwirb well to broadcast the sport’s big moments.

Benzegala returns to the States at KHBT in Iowa

Alex BenzegalaAfter a year in Mexico, Alex Benzegala is back broadcasting in a familiar part of the United States. He is the new Sports Director at KHBT 97.7 in Humboldt, IA.

“This is a great opportunity for me to get back into the industry after taking a break from broadcasting in 2020,” he says. “I lived in Mexico with my wife for the majority of the pandemic and was struggling to land a full time broadcasting job in the United States, so I’m grateful to have a job in this industry in a market that I am familiar with.”

Familiar surroundings

Benzegala applied immediately after finding the KHBT opening in an STAA Job Leads email. He received a reply less than three hours later. “I had an advantage for this position because I previously worked with the co-owner of KHBT for a couple of months when I worked at Alpha Media in Fort Dodge, IA, from 2017-2019,” Benzegala recalls. “Having that connection helped because he was already familiar with my work. I also had an advantage because I was already very familiar with the town of Humboldt since I had lived 20 minutes away in Fort Dodge.”

KHBT also presents Benzegala with a chance to call sports he’s not broadcast before. “Sports such as wrestling and soccer,” he says. “And broadcasting over 100 games a year will be a record for me and a challenge that I am looking forward to.”

Benzegala has been an STAA member since 2014. “Finding a job can very difficult, but STAA makes it easier,” he says. “There are a lot of resources that are very beneficial to members. One of my favorite parts of STAA is the community. I learn a lot from the many great broadcasters at STAA, thus making me a better broadcaster and making it easier for me to get a job.”

Now Benzegala is returning to work in a part of the country he loves.

“I like the quality of life in the Midwest. And even though it sounds cliche, people are genuinely nice and are great to work with. It is also a great area of the country to raise a family.”

2020 grad McLaughlin adds DI play-by-play to already impressive resume

Spencer McLaughlin graduated from college last year. He made his national sports talk radio debut this spring. Now he’s adding NCAA Division I play-by-play to his resume. McLaughlin is joining the broadcast team at Southern Utah University.

The Thunderbirds start play in the Western Athletic Conference this Fall after many years in the Big Sky Conference.

“I will be doing play-by-play for soccer, gymnastics, and softball. I will also be involved on-air for women’s basketball and volleyball, probably doing a mix of play-by-play and color commentary,” McLaughlin explains.

Fast track

McLaughlin’s rise in sports broadcasting has been fast. He was mentored as a student at Santa Clara University by Bronco alumnus and fellow STAA member Jack Benjamin. Benjamin was part of NBC’s play-by-play team for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics and is the play-by-play voice at Nicholls State University.

McLaughlin joined STAA midway through his senior year. Upon graduating, he accepted a play-by-play/morning show host position for Mountaineer Radio at Eastern Oklahoma State College. He started doing fill-in host work for SportsMap Radio Network after STAA introduced him to the network’s COO/PD Craig Larson. Now McLaughlin is leaving Wilburton, OK for USU in Cedar City, UT.

“A friend of mine is a women’s basketball assistant and pointed out they didn’t really have a secondary play-by-play broadcaster for a lot of sports,” McLaughlin recalls. “That is the role I’ll fill. I emailed them to ask about it and there was mutual interest.”

He continues, “I am thrilled about this opportunity because it is the first time I will be broadcasting DI Athletics since I entered the workforce out of college. I honestly didn’t think I would land any sort of DI job so early in my career.”

Potential tough choice

McLaughlin will continue his fill-in work on SportsMap Radio Network. It begs the question, though, whether McLaughlin see his future in talk radio or play-by-play.

“There might come a day where I have to choose between play-by-play and sports talk hosting. But with technology allowing me to do sports talk remotely I’m hoping that’s not the case. I would love to do both as long as I can.”

Clark’s SEC allegiance divided by new job in Fayetteville

Cierra Clark has a dilemma. She is a University of Florida alumnus whose first TV sports job was in Gainesville, FL. Now, though, she is covering one of the Gators’ SEC rivals – the Arkansas Razorbacks. Clark has joined TVH 11 in Fayetteville as a sports reporter/anchor.

She admits her allegiances will be challenged when the Gators and Razorbacks meet.

“That’s a hard one,” she grins. “Luckily in football, they won’t play each other for a while in the regular season. But I’ll stay neutral on whatever day they do match up in whatever sport it is!”

Leaving Florida

Clark most recently worked at WCJB TV 20 in Gainesville. She has been an STAA member since 2018 and found the TVH 11 opportunity in an STAA Job Leads email.

“I get to cover the SEC in addition to other colleges and high schools. I’ve lived in Florida for most of my life so it’s going to be fun to leave the Sunshine State,” she enthuses.

Persistent approach

Following up her application was a key to Clark landing the job. “I was persistent,” she recalls. “I made sure to reach out to the news and sports director pretty much weekly. I expressed my passion for covering sports and I even shared story ideas I had.”

The elimination of sports departments due to COVID has been one challenge Clark has faced in the sportscasting job market. “Jobs have been cut and that makes the competition even harder. However, you just have to keep pushing through and make CONNECTIONS,” she implores.

“STAA has allowed me to connect with other people in the industry and has provided me with insight with the emails Jon [Chelesnik] sends out. He also gives very good advice when I ask questions.”

One question Clark has already answered regards whom to support when the Gators and Razorbacks meet. She’ll play it down the middle.

Lifelong Notre Dame fan Burnett now covering the Irish

One of Indiana native Austin Burnett’s earliest memories as a Notre Dame fan is Brady Quinn’s game-winning touchdown pass to Jeff Samardzija to beat UCLA in 2006. “I remember the stadium was literally shaking from how loud it was after that touchdown,” Burnett smiles.

The next time Notre Dame Stadium shakes, Burnett will be there to cover it. He has joined ABC 57 in South Bend as a sports reporter/photographer.

“This is a great opportunity for me to improve my videography and editing skills while covering one of the most legendary universities in the country,” Burnett enthuses.

Discovered on YouTube

The opportunity came when a station executive called Burnett after seeing his reel on YouTube. “They saw I had a 574 area code, which is the area code here in South Bend/Michiana. We set up an interview the next day and I was hired that next day!”

Though he grew up in the Hoosier State, Burnett attended college at Arizona State. His first job after graduation was in Odessa, TX. Now he’s heading home.

“One of many things I’m looking forward to [doing] is the ABC57 Saturday Kickoff show. It’s a two-hour show previewing Notre Dame’s game with feature stories, live reporting, fun segments and sound from players and coaches. And we will also talk sports betting and the bets relevant to Notre Dame football.

“I’m also looking forward to reporting live on the road at Notre Dame football away games and getting to shoot the game on the field. I’m looking forward to covering every other Notre Dame sport as well!”

Faith and patience

Burnett says one thing that helped his pursuit of the job was keeping strong in his faith. He then adds, “And staying persistent in applying for sports journalism jobs for 12 months knowing that I love what I do and this is what I’m passionate about!

“Being patient was 110% the hardest part, but man it paid off!”

Former ESPN staffer Joey Ellis returns to home state to be on air

After two years working behind the scenes at ESPN, Joey Ellis is returning to his home state to work in front of the camera. An STAA member, Ellis has joined WLUC in Negaunee, MI as a sports anchor/reporter.

Ellis graduated from Michigan State University in 2019. “Then, I joined ESPN as part of the ESPN Next program for young professionals, where I worked in production for almost two years,” he says. “I knew from my days in school, though, that I wanted to be in front of the camera, particularly to do play-by-play, which remains the goal today.”

Though being on-air has always been Ellis’ goal, working in production at ESPN benefitted him greatly. “My nearly two years at the ‘Worldwide Leader’ equipped me with the knowledge of what’s required to effectively put out a solid product, both in front of and behind the camera. I learned so much in my time there and felt I was ready to make a move to a position that would allow me to be on air.”

Ellis joined STAA midway through his senior year of college in 2019. “The tireless work that Jon Chelesnik and his staff do in helping aspiring broadcasters find employment in the industry is inspiring,” he says. “The investment is 100% worth it. Jon takes pride in helping each and every person who shows serious interest in the service.”

The WLUC opening was emailed to STAA members in mid-May. Ellis, though, first heard about it through a friend. “Seth Wells, now the No. 3 sports reporter at WOODTV8 in Grand Rapids, MI notified me.” Ellis continues, “Seth started his on-air TV career there and spoke highly of it, so I felt it would be an opportunity worth pursuing.”

Persistent cold contacting leads Boehme to Henderson State

Spencer Boehme sent well over 100 cold contacting emails in pursuit of a play-by-play job. One of those struck gold. An STAA member, Boehme is the new men and women’s basketball, baseball and softball voice at NCAA DII Henderson State University in Arkadelphia, AR.

Boehme will also provide football color commentary for the Reddies. He follows fellow STAA member Cyrus Wittig.

STAA members were notified of the opening in mid-July. Boehme, though, learned through his cold-contacting campaign in June that the position might open.

NCAA goal

“I mostly emailed Division II schools, but I also emailed other schools and some radio stations,” Boehme says.

“My biggest hope this year was to do collegiate broadcasting, so this is a dream job for me. It’s part-time, so I have to find a second job, but it’ll look great on my resume no less. After getting to work with student radio calling games at Division I Lipscomb, including a game at Madison Square Garden, this is a dream come true.

Boehme graduated this spring from Lipscomb University in Nashville. He joined STAA halfway through his senior year. “I reached out to [STAA Owner Jon Chelesnik] for some career advice, to which he responded. A year later, as I was entering my last semester of college, I joined STAA, and he remembered me!”

Cold contacting plan

Boehme’s cold contacting netted a few phone calls, one job offer before Henderson State and one formal interview for a full-time position. His decision to make the six-hour drive from his home near Nashville to visit Arkadelphia was a game-changer.

“I had an offer at that point, but it was part-time, so I wanted to see if I could make a life in southwestern Arkansas,” Boehme recalls. “During that trip, I visited a local state park and Hot Springs, and Memphis during my trip there and back. That trip left a big imprint on me.

“Ultimately, and I understand not everyone has a background of faith, I have to credit God for this job, because I feel like he’s put me in all the places I’ve needed to be to get to this point.”

Persevere and innovate

Boehme’s advice to other cold-contactors is to persevere. “I spent six months emailing people and being given false hope. People would respond back and say that they might need some play-by-play, and then I’d never hear from them again. It’s a dejecting process, and it will make you lose hope sometimes. And that’s a very valid emotional process to go through. But just keep going on.

“Perhaps more importantly, always innovate and tweak your process. For example, if you email one person at a college and don’t hear back, email a different person at that same college a few months later. Let’s just say that worked for me.”

Jouganatos’ dream comes true with sports radio job near home

When Keith Jouganatos recently accepted a sports talk/play-by-play job at KAHI AM/FM in Auburn, CA, the first call he made was to his dad.

“Pop has always believed in me. He’s listened to every game I’ve ever broadcasted from my time at Sacramento State to my time with the NFHS Network and NorCal Sports TV,” Jouganatos says. “Pop has always believed in me before I believed in myself so it was a special moment for both of us.”

A surprise call

The younger Jouganatos was visiting Disneyland when he received a call from his friend and longtime KHTK Sacramento Sports Director Jason Ross. Ross told Jouganatos that the KAHI position had opened for the first time in forever. “Shortly after that the owner of the station and the general manager reached out to me,” Jouganatos recalls.

Jouganatos joined STAA last year upon the recommendation of a college friend. “He was basically telling me the premise and I thought it was amazing. I saw the STAA site the first time and just fell in love.”

Handling setback

As it is with many sportscasters, Jouganatos’ experience with the job market has been challenging. “The hardest part has honestly been rejection. Applying time after time and coming close to jobs but never getting through the door. You know in the back of your mind you want to be patient. At the same time there is that doubt where it’s like, ‘Am I any good? Does anybody even want me?’ Things like that creep into your mind and it’s a marathon. But God doesn’t give you anything you can’t handle if you stay the course.”

Jouganatos grew up in Elk Grove, CA, less than 30 minutes south of Sacramento. He graduated from Sacramento State in 2016. The KAHI studio is just over 30 minutes northeast of California’s capital city. Jouganatos has known of the station for many years.

“It has always been a dream of mine to land that [KAHI] job so I said yes without question. This job has always been on my radar.”

It’s likely that the station has always been on Jouganatos’ Pop’s radar, too. Now the father can listen to his son every day.