Written by Rachel Krome
Being the best is an accurate description of Concordia University Wisconsin's experience at the Concordia Invitational Tournament this past weekend. Four Universities, all named Concordia, fought for one thing: the CIT traveling trophy.
Despite a nine-hour bus ride, a rigorous schedule that included back-to-back playing days and two players getting sick, CUW's men's basketball earned a pair of victories and brought home the trophy for the third time in the last six years.
"There really is no down time," All-CIT performer Steve Zielinski (Brown Deer, Wis.) said. "We were always focused on what we had to do all weekend and that was winning."
That focus led the Falcon men to victory, as they knew a title run would be more work than play, but they still enjoyed all that CIT offered. The men's team had the opportunity to ride CUW's fan bus to the women's basketball game on Saturday to cheer on their own, an experience most teams do not enjoy.
"The entire weekend was absolutely unbelievable," point guard Casey Kegley (Grafton, Wis.) said. "To be in that atmosphere with such a large crowd on Concordia Nebraska's home court, and to win there in my last year is truly a blessing. I will always remember those wins."
The fans, which traveled from all over the country, greatly appreciated the effort from both CUW's basketball teams, but ever more so from the players. "It means a lot that the fans were willing to show that much support for CUW," CIT Most Valuable Player Brian Jackson (Carol Stream, Ill) said. "For the students to pay $75 dollars; and then sit nine hours on a bus and cheer for four games the weekend before school starts shows the dedication and support they give us."
Faith was also an important part of CIT. When asked what it meant to have the Lord and prayer be an intrical part of CIT, Kegley responded, "It just shows how much God is in all of our lives. Despite what the scoreboard shows we are all winners because we are playing for Him. He died for us and we have gained the ultimate victory through him. It is nice to know the Lord is on our side. I as a player am so vulnerable on my own."
The question on every fans mind might be: Is this CIT title enough momentum to carry the Falcons through the remainder of the season?
Watching 2,000 fans cheer at CIT and then returning to the R. John Buuck Field House on Tuesday could have been an emotional letdown with fewer fans. Head coach Shawn Cassidy said the crowd got his team ready for the game by recreating the CIT environment.
The Falcons used the home crowd support to down Northern Athletics Conference rival Edgewood College, 67-50, which moved them closer to first place in the NAC North upon their return from Seward, Neb.
Cassidy also believes they are getting back in the normal routine with four very important games to play. Being close to the last part of the season, reality for the six seniors is setting in that their careers are nearly over.
Last year, there were seven seniors who were strong leaders and when they graduated it left a hole in the leadership realm, but it has been the duty of the this year's seniors to take a stand and become pivotal leaders and role models for this team.
The end is in sight, and emotions are turning from the excitement of a CIT championship to the remaining few games and the NAC Tournament. Going into the season's final games CUW needs to remember what Cassidy said in the intense title game in Seward, Neb., "This is what we practice five minute games for every day, to prepare us for the intense last few seconds of victories."