Concordia Invitational Tournament Returns After Two-Year Hiatus


Kayla McCloud

The CUC student section cheers during the men’s game versus Concordia University Ann Arbor at the Concordia Invitational Tournament on Saturday, Jan. 28.

Parker Kelley

Early on a chilly January morning, a mix of 28 students, faculty, and parents of the Concordia University-Chicago community made the trek on a fan bus eight hours west to Seward, Nebraska for the 70th annual Concordia Invitational Tournament (CIT).

CIT is a showcase for men’s and women’s basketball, along with dance and cheer teams from Concordia-Nebraska (CUNE), Concordia-Ann Arbor (CUAA), Concordia-Wisconsin (CUW), and Concordia University Chicago (CUC).

The tournament was last hosted by CUC in January 2020, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, CIT was not held in 2021 and 2022. This year, CUNE hosted the return of the tournament on Friday, Jan. 27 and Saturday, Jan. 28.

Historically, CIT has been centered around basketball. However, students are beginning to discover that the tournament goes far beyond just the performance on the hardwood.

“Yeah, CIT is about basketball, but it has evolved from that idea over the years,” said CUC senior Adrian Hernandez. “It’s more about community and knowing that you are apart of something bigger.”

Despite the fact that four different Concordia universities competed against each other, students still viewed the tournament as an opportunity to come together as one.

“It’s a great bonding moment whenever we are all cheering,” said CUC sophomore Josie Brown. “It definitely has that feeling of togetherness. I thought it was really cool.”

Students have also realized that CIT not only presents a opportunity for bonding with their fellow classmates and peers, but it also allows them to cultivate their current friendships.

“I would say it is a very rewarding experience,” said Brown. “You get to see everyone come together to cheer on their team, and you get to know the people that traveled with you better.”

The CUC faithful quickly made their presence felt as they watched their women’s and men’s basketball teams compete inside of CUNE’s Walz Human Performance Complex.

In the tournament, women’s games alternate with men’s games, with the women’s game played first on both Friday and Saturday. The winners of Friday’s games competed in the championship game on Saturday. Meanwhile, the losers played in the consolation games. For their first game, the CUC women’s basketball team competed against CUAA.

“We were screaming at the top of our lungs,” said Hernandez. “Even when we couldn’t scream any more, we screamed louder.”

CIT presents an electric atmosphere packed with passion from each fanbase. “It is absolutely insane,” said CUC director of athletic communications Kayla McCloud. “It gives you that Division I feel from a Division III level.”

The crowd noise inside of the Walz Human Performance Complex was deafening as the student sections from each school would take turns chanting for their respective teams.

“Every sound you make echoes,” said CUC fifth year senior, Andrew Lechuga. “I would have loved to have seen what the decibel count was.”

The screaming proved to have a positive effect on the CUC women’s basketball team as well. In their first game versus CUAA, the Cougars found themselves down by 15 points with 6:26 remaining in the third quarter. As the game progressed, the CUC student section became louder, and eventually, the Cougars overcame the deficit to defeat the Cardinals 71-65 to punch a ticket to the CIT championship game.

Saturday’s matchup was the CUC women’s first appearance in the CIT championship since 2018. Yet the CUNE Bulldogs captured their eighth consecutive CIT title by defeating CUC 85-33.

Despite the Cougar’s loss in the championship game, CUC women’s basketball player Melia Perry earned all-tournament honors after scoring a combined 29 points against CUAA and CUNE.

The CUC women’s team was grateful for the all the cheering conducted by the Cougar student section as they made their CIT run. “We got to the point where most of us lost our voices even before the second game,” Hernandez said. “It was awesome.”

The CUC men’s team dropped their opening game to CUNE 89-70 to put them in the consolation game versus CUAA. CUC played with great effort, but fell short 66-58 to the Cardinals.

Like Perry, CUC men’s basketball star Jordan Matthews also earned all-tournament honors, after scoring 23 points against CUNE and 17 points against CUAA.

Regardless of the outcomes for both CUC programs, the Cougar fans exuded great enthusiasm for both of their teams.

“At some points, we were louder than the home crowd,” said CUC freshman Ben Harrison. “I thought it was really hype.”

As the final buzzer sounded to the men’s championship game and CUNE won their fifth CIT title under head coach Ben Limback, students reflected on how they could use their CIT experiences to help better each of their universities.

“I am hoping we can bring some things back to try and improve our campus,” said Brown. “Why would we not look and see if there are things that we can do better?”

CIT provides a unique opportunity for Concordia students everywhere. Not only does it allow for bonding opportunities with others, but it is the place to truly feel the pride of your school.

“When you are able to bring four different schools together for a whole weekend, it’s a very unique thing that a lot of schools don’t even have,” said Lechuga. “Having this invitational is a fun and unique experience.”