I was walking into the newsroom to write about Overwatch meta changes when out of nowhere the Varsity League of Legends coach, Joe Jacko, came running up to me with the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on a Thursday at 12:26 p.m.
And he had every right to be excited.
For the first time in program history, the USC Varsity League of Legends Gold team nabbed a spot in the ESPN Coaches poll of the top 25 college LoL teams in the country. The placement was decided after strong wins in ASU’s GSV tournament, according to an article posted earlier today in ESPN.
Wins against then No. 10 Texas and UT Dallas at ASU GSV, along with a close 1-2 loss to Waterloo in the tournament’s lower bracket pushed them over the edge this week into the 24th spot above 25th place Purdue.
It’s a big moment for the team, who’ve been working hard to prove themselves on the national stage.
“We had some communication problems initially in regards to just normal team dynamic issues,” said Garrett “Poi” Krichbaum, the midlaner for the team, “But our coach Joe has been really consistent on resolving any intrapersonal issues that come up after practices and tournament games, so we’ve been working together as a team better in the past few weeks.”
The Varsity team was launched in November of 2018, but began their competitive matches in the 2019 spring CLoL tournament where they finished with a record of 3-3.
A year after that initial season they find themselves 1-0 in the CLoL tournament, and 6-1 in CSL, though Poi sees room for improvement.
“I am personally a little disappointed because I feel like we really should have won our last series [against Waterloo], but I guess how close the games were was reflected in the poll regardless so I can't be too mad about it,” said Poi.
Jacko came on as head coach in September of 2019, and for him, the poll result “validates everything we've been working on.”
Talking about his players, and how they’ve evolved throughout the semester Jacko said that, “They're quick to adapt in a way they never were before, every single player is eager to learn more about what champions are strong, but also what's strong with the strengths of our team, and that's something I couldn't place a value on,” he said.
This placement means a lot for Jacko and the team, but represents something greater for esports at USC.
“For the program it’s a measurable level of success to be featured by ESPN and something that fans of USC can recognize as outstanding regardless of their understanding of esports and League of Legends.”