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Air Force ROTC hosts 36th annual Flyin’ Irish Invitational

| Friday, February 4, 2022

Notre Dame’s Air Force ROTC will hold the 36th annual Flyin’ Irish Invitational basketball tournament this weekend from Friday through Sunday. The tournament welcomes 48 men’s and women’s ROTC basketball teams from across the nation to campus to play in the Joyce Center.

Since it began in 1985, the Flyin’ Irish Invitational has grown to be the largest cadet-run event in the U.S.

“It started as an event for future officers of the military to just have fun and play basketball,” junior Sarah Wells, who serves as a PA section lead, said. “We even had it last year, virtually, because it means so much.”

Cadet and junior Josephine Ciaravino is the main coordinator of the tournament this year. Ciaravino said she is excited for the event to return to its normal in-person format. The tournament is open to the public.

Courtesy of Josephine Ciaravino
The Flyin’ Irish Invitational Tournament poster. The tournament begins Friday evening before concluding in the Purcell Pavilion on Sunday.

With schools from all across the country participating, Ciaravino said the tournament is a great opportunity to not only compete and have fun but also meet a lot of ROTC students.

“[It is] a great way to have fun and have a competitive camaraderie with people at different schools who are going through very similar situations as you are. Most of us will probably serve together in the air force or other branches as well,” Wells explained. “It’s a great way to meet people and network.”

While the event is run by the Notre Dame Air Force ROTC, all ROTC branches are represented in the teams.

The tournament finale is a championship bracket with games held in the Purcell Pavilion. Marquette University and Virginia Tech are the reigning men’s and women’s champions, respectively. Juniors Jake Franklin and Elena Herberg, who are the captains of the men’s and women’s Notre Dame teams this year, said both Notre Dame teams are excited to pursue a championship this year.

“I think I speak for the team when I say we are all really excited,” Herberg said.

Herberg placed third in the tournament during her first year and said she is ecstatic to return for her junior year to try to lead her team to victory. With a lot of new talent, Herberg thinks her team is position to make a deep run in the tournament.

“We have a lot of new players, and I think our positive energy is contagious,” she said. 

The tournament is a destination marked on all the schools calendars long in advance, Wells said.

 “I didn’t realize how much the other teams looked forward to the tournament in the week leading up to it,” she said.

The teams involve take the opportunity to earn bragging rights over the other ROTC programs very seriously, Wells said. A sergeant from an opposing team once called her trying to scope out the competition to better prepare his team. 

Ciaravino said this year’s tournament is surrounded by lots of energy and excitement from all the teams involved as it returns to its normal in-person format.

“It’s going to be really awesome, and we’re really excited to welcome all the teams in person this year,” she said.

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