USC’s Varsity League of Legends team looked strong, but not quite strong enough to beat Arizona State University who eventually lost to UC Berkeley in the Collegiate Star League Dreamhack 2020 tournament on Friday.

Inside the monolith walls and the palm tree’d walkways of the Anaheim Convention Center, next door to the rows of priests, nuns, crosses and banners ordained with the likeness of Jesus Christ of the Religious Education conference, past the slow lines and metal detectors of Dreamhack’s carefully controlled perimeter, alongside booths of indie game developers showcasing their turned based card games and virtual reality shooters, interspersed with artists selling representations of classic video game icons and scantily clad anime girls sat the flashing lights and LCD screens of the CSL collegiate League of Legends tournament stage.

The Varsity team walked from the PC filled practice room into the David and Goliath narrative that dominated the main stage conversation. After introducing USC, announcer Rob Gonzales proclaimed to the tens of people sitting in the crowd that “this other team on stage is the monster. When you go to bed at night you look under your bed for this team because they are Freddie Kruger, they are Michael Myers, you need to make some noise right now for A-S-U.”

An EDM banger ensued.

Before the match began, Hovanes “Hovz” Terovsepyan, saw the underdog status as a motivator for the team. “ASU is the heavy favorite so I think that’s the best part. We have nothing to lose, if we lose, it’s like okay we’re the underdog, but if we win it’s like... what the hell is happening.”

Everyone loves the Cinderella Man story, but this one shaped out a bit more like the first Rocky. There was pure digital carnage, each side exchanging blow after blow but eventually the Apollo Creed machine of ASU took the belt.

There were moments of brilliance where USC came out on top in many of early team fights, but they’d begin to make mistakes as the round progressed. Times like these culminated in moments like a mid fight during the first round where and got two initial picks via USC’s Brandon “Gunning” Gunning and William “lofi relax” Huang, but lost three in the back, going even in a fight that they could have won.

Michael Ahn, one of the team’s coaches said that “ASU has a very strong emphasis and a very strong style of split push and this style is very risky, and often times a lot of collegiate teams actually don’t know how to play around it, but as a result we were kind of blown off guard.”

They eventually lost the match, but at the start of the tournament final between Berkeley and ASU the casters mentioned that the 2-0 loss was not representative of the collegiate carnage that transpired.

“We messed up a lot, but we definitely had some good plays,” said Huang, who plays the top lane. “It sucks when you’re winning, and you’re the one who has to lose.”

But he also remarked that the game showed a notable improvement from the beginning of the season, where he imagined the team would have lost in a much more decisive way.

Coach Joe Jacko also saw this loss as a learning opportunity, saying that “it means we need to kind of push a little bit harder, it means we have to pivot how we team-fight and pivot our in game tech because we showed we can put up a good fight early game we just need to make sure we can teamfight well together and we’re constantly working as a team.”

But the season is coming to a close, with only a few more matches in the Riot CLoL league and CSL before playoffs.