Esports Club Heats up as Varsity Improves 6-0 Record
By Conor Wilson
Does regular soccer not have enough explosions for you?
What at first glance sounds more like friends laughing about TV shows and unusual game mechanics than a sporting event turns silent and serious in an instant.
As soon as the game begins the only conversation over the microphones are discussions of team strategy, rotations and short decisive remarks of “I go,” and “I have no boost.”
The serious tone is reflective of a promising season for both the varsity and junior varsity teams from Western’s Rocket League club, who played in its sixth game of the Collegiate Starleague season on Saturday, Nov. 23.
Rocket League is a video game developed and published by Psyonix where players control a rocket-powered car to hit a ball into the opponent’s goal. Games can be played from between one-on-one to four-on-four.
“We like to learn how each other plays like you do in soccer or football,” JV player Kevin McGrane said. “You want to be able to communicate enough so that, [your teammates] understand what you’re trying to say, but you don’t want to be talking because the game is so fast paced.”
In the varsity matchup, Western improved its record to 6-0 and retained its first-place ranking after a forfeit victory over Utah Valley University.
Of the team’s six matches this season – which consist of a best of five game series – they have never lost more than one game per match. This includes the team’s 3-1 victories against both the University of Washington and Washington State University.
“Our team has really good synergy with each other,” former team captain and varsity alternate Jacob Friesen said over instant message. “I’m looking forward to spring where there will most likely be more tournaments for us to compete in and hopefully, we can make some waves in the collegiate scene.”
In the JV game, Western lost to second place Colorado School of Mines three games to one, dropping their record to 2-4.
After losing the first game of the match 5-0, Western rallied back to win the second game of the series 5-1, including two goals and one assist from McGrane.
“We talked about how we were playing well in warmups and how we didn’t do any of that in the first game, so we focused on not stressing out and over thinking,” McGrane said in an instant message. “I feel like that was one of the best series we have played so far this season.”
In the third game, Western played a close defensive match, keeping CSM within a goal, until the last 40 seconds where CSM scored twice to take the game 4-1. CSM closed out the match with a 3-0 victory in game four.
According to team member Kanyen Sherwood, one of the biggest problems for the team was overcommitting.
“It seemed that almost every goal that they scored came from two of us going for the same ball,” Sherwood said over an instant message. “It is a big issue, but I think with some practice over break it should become better.”
Despite the loss, McGrane said the team is heading in the right direction.
“I think we played well, and the right ideas were there, we just lacked consistency,” McGrane said. “There definitely are positives to take away in that we played really well in game two, and the third and fourth [games] were both close too.”
Of Western’s four losses, three of them have come from matches against the top four teams in the league.
“The schedule just happened to match us against the hardest teams at the beginning of the season,” Sherwood said. “We haven’t played a single match against the bottom half of our table, and I think we should be able to pick up traction and bring our season back.”
The varsity team will resume CSL play on Jan. 11, 2020 against Weber State University. The JV team will have a BYEweek and play the University of Montana on Jan. 18, 2020.