Maryville University rolled through the bracket of UCLA’s League of Legends tournament last weekend, the final iteration of a three weekend tournament series that also featured Valorant and Overwatch. They didn’t lose single game in the process, and beat a worthy Arizona State University (ASU) 3-0 in the grand finals, though the match was much closer than the scoreline would indicate.
Just like in UCLA’s recent Overwatch tournament, teams from around the West Coast joined together in the Rift, except for USC. The reason for the varsity team’s absence, according to coach Joe Jacko, was because, “Tryouts were upcoming and we wanted to put our best roster forward for the 2020 school year.”
While USC refrained from putting in a modified roster, schools like UCLA sent to the tournament, “an interim roster fielded after a preliminary round of tryouts,” according to Sophomore Lauren Chen, the Marketing Director at UCLA Esports. They’ll finish their tryouts in the coming weeks.
After the September 5 tryouts, USC will be participating in other college tournaments of this caliber, according to Jacko.
This tournament also marks another moment in the Michael Ahn saga. The former USC varsity League assistant coach who helped the team beat UT Dallas and the University of Texas at ASU’s GSV tournament last year hopped on over to Arizona to join the ASU coaching staff.
“They made it very clear that they are a promising team with much talent and dedication as none of the players are in it for the stipends or scholarships since they get neither from the school or the team,” he said.
Ahn, a senior studying Narrative Studies, is still a USC student. The decision to leave USC’s coaching staff elsewhere came after a disagreement on salary last Spring. He was being paid less than he felt like he deserved, and for now, his loyalties lie with ASU.
“I plan to coach them as long as possible until they meet their full potential and become the new giant in the west with UCI’s downfall,” he said.
Last weekend’s tournament showed that great Overwatch programs don’t necessarily translate to League, and vice versa, even with collegiate esports powerhouses like UC Irvine and UCLA. Both teams wreaked havoc on the Overwatch bracket — UCI didn’t lose a single game and UCLA made it to the finals of the losers bracket — but in League they looked a little less convincing.
UCI lost in the second round to Cal State Northridge and UCLA lost to UC Riverside and then immediately to Ohio Northern University.
For Ahn, the UCI loss was emblematic of what he sees as a larger shift in the collegiate League scene.
“I was surprised by how much UCI has fallen in terms of performance over this last year. I think UCI was the real upset in this tournament, especially with a D4 average team ending up beating them during the first day,” he said.
Naveen Sheik, the former marketing director of UCLA Esports, noticed ASU’s impressive performance in the grand finals.
“I was extremely surprised with how well ASU did against Maryville. Although they lost they really gave an excellent show for everyone,” he said.
Some of ASU’s players made some big impressions throughout the tournament, like Jungle Mason “baekho” Choe, Jungle and Top Laner Vincent “CatOnThyRoof” Chang. They couldn’t quite hold it together in the final match, but provided major highlight moments last weekend.
Of course, Maryville is still looking unstoppable. ASU had a huge chance in game 2, controlling most of the game and winning team fights all over, but they over committed in a crucial juncture while Maryville’s Aiden “Niles” Tidwell snuck in from the top lane and nabbed the win from right out under ASU.
Maryville took the next round easily, making the series 3-0.
Last weekend’s tournament marked the end of UCLA’s Summer Invitational series, starting off with Valorant in mid-August, heading to Overwatch on the 22nd, and concluding with League.
“I do think these tournaments are one of the key pillars for collegiate esports and moving forward will be what fuels the scene,” said Sheik.
We’ll see if the performances last weekend will be indicative of what we see at Harrisburg University’s Hue Invitational on September 19. The Fall season awaits.