It was the Maryville show in the League of Legends tournament last weekend. They split Harrisburg University’s Hue Invitational bracket like the wolves in Our Planet do with their prey in the woods. One wolf takes top lane, a second wolf bottom, forcing the struggling caribou into mid to be farmed. Maryville’s A and B team were the wolves, everyone else was a caribou.
It’s not like Harrisburg didn’t do essentially the same thing at their own tournament, albeit one rung lower. They also sent their A (HU Storm) and B teams through each side of the bracket, cleaning house until both teams met their Maryville counterparts in the semi-finals. It was Maryville A vs. Harrisburg B, and the inverse on the other side. The casters were full of jokes about the diverse set of outcomes for the finals, hoping for both Harrisburg and Maryville representation on the virtual stage. But the hammer came down when Maryville’s B team took out the HU Storm in three games.
Maryville A beat Harrisburg’s B team handily, making the finals an all-Maryville affair. But it started out a little shaky for Maryville’s star studded A team. Caught off guard by B’s aggression, the A team couldn’t quite scratch their way back after B’s gold and kill lead continued to snowball. For a moment the dream was alive; maybe Maryville B could overthrow their sister team.
But team A wasn’t so stressed, and coach Tanner Diegan (who used to head USC’s League of Legends program) emphasized the context of B’s first game win.
“That’s kind of the whole point of what we’re trying to do here. We want to create depth in our program that allows us to put our best foot forward against any opponent in any scenario. By the B team coming in and having a dominant Game One, we showed that we are on the right path to having that depth that we seek in our program,” he said.
Team A went on to win the next two games, Game Two led by a heroic effort from Top Aiden “Niles” Tidwell on Lucian, who evaded death and made huge cash deposits to the team’s gold stash.
So Maryville took the first and second place trophies at the Hue tournament, once again leaving the rest of the competition in the dust. Not one team managed to get a foothold into their matches against Maryville, even schools like Winthrop University and Columbia College who performed well otherwise. For Deegan, that came from a lack of preparation.
“I feel like each team that we played against didn’t really prepare anything specific for us, in pick ban or strategically, like we did for each opponent,” he said.
Maryville scouted hard for this tournament, looking at videos from each team to find their weak points and figure out effective strategies against each opponent.
“It felt like every team we played just came into the tournament looking to get through the game their way, instead of adapting to the opponent they were playing (us),” Deegan said.
Neither him nor other members on the team see that changing anytime soon, and Niles especially doesn’t see any other team disrupting their dynasty.
“Everyone else is trash… Maryville is going to dominate the entire year, I challenge anyone to contest us the rest of the year. If you can, honestly, I’ll be shocked,” said Niles.
Deegan worded his response differently, but echoed Niles' sentiment, saying “I say it before every tournament and I will continue to say it; the only team that can contest us is ourselves.”
Day Two of the tournament saw a lot more action from Echo, but teams still generally played around their Reaper and Sombra, racing each other to get the EMP. Below is a clip of Austin “Coolabc” Walch from University of Utah against the University of Missouri.
The playoffs looked a little different from the League of Legends bracket, but it was still looking like another Maryville victory. They were the returning champs from last year’s Hue Invitational, and the absence of UC Irvine this year helped their odds.
But it was Northwood University that snuck in from outside the view of the audience, slowly creeping up the bracket until they appeared in the semi-finals matched up against the HU Storm. Home field advantage and a first seed confidence made Harrisburg’s star team an easy pick for both the casters and the chat.
But Northwood started gaining momentum after HU picked up an easy victory on Havana. It seemed like a turning point, a moment that signaled that Northwood’s dog days were over, and HU had woken up from their Map One nap. But Volskaya saw individual performance take over, and team fights all started going the way of Northwood, even in situations where they appeared to be on the back foot. After the map, caster Richard “Richrad” Pontillo couldn’t help lingering on Adam “Dynasty” Elsheemy’s play of the game, saying “Ah the beam!” over and over again at the Symmetra ripping through Harrisburg on screen.
Of course that’s not to diminish the power plays coming out of Harrisburg as well, with Elijah “Elk” Hudson fragging out and constructing fight-determining walls on Mei. On Northwood, highlight plays came out of Tyler “Tyler” Tidwell on Sombra with crucial EMPs, and Akash “Akash” Jalasutram and Donovan “Cowman711” Koch unleashed onslaughts of damage upon the Storm players.
Here’s how the series progressed through the eyes of chat:
Maryville was next up. The returning champion boasted a name feared by all in collegiate esports, not to mention a slew of highlight clips coming out of Henrique “Horthic” Damião from earlier in the tournament.
But Northwood was unfazed.
“We were very confident heading into the tournament, we knew if we played as a team that our roster could make a run at the title,” said Cody Elsen, Esports director and head coach.
During the first map, that dream didn’t seem so likely. Maryville was winning the Busan team fights, shutting down the Northwood tanks and letting Horthic loose with the EMP/Death Blossom play on point. And it worked in Round One, but Round Two saw Northwood push back with Reaper and Sombra plays of their own. Maryville won the map in a nail biting finish, both teams with 99% on the capture until Zachary “Iced” Hughes won the race to the EMP, shutting down Northwood’s abilities as Maryville stormed the point.
“Northwood is making it really hard, and I’d love to know how Maryville is feeling after that first map being closer than they probably anticipated,” said caster Rosemary Kelley after the first map.
Northwood knew they had to step up their play.
“The team started to rely on which Hero they were mechanically most sound with,” said Elsen. “Sometimes raw skill works.”
And so it did. Northwood unleashed, and became the first team in the entire tournament to take a map off of Maryville. And then the first team to take two. Maryville came back on Numbani to tie it up 2-2, thanks to good team comp, and another huge EMP/ Death Blossom combo from Iced and Horthic.
The reality of Northwood winning the whole thing didn’t quite hit home until the final map. It was Ilios, control. They came out of the gates immediately locking Maryville out of the first round. Maryville pushed back in, putting 60% on the capture meter until they were knocked off by Northwood in a lopsided team fight. They scrambled back, trying to push past Northwood to land one foot on the objective and reach parody but just couldn’t quite reach Ilios’s center.
Then it was the Northwood show. No one entered their objective, and they suppressed wave after wave of Maryville attempts until breaking only at 99% capture. They needed only one successful push to close out the game and seize the victory. Northwood went for the tried and true strategy, sending Tyler’s Sombra through the back lines to drop an EMP on as many Maryville players as possible. The rest of the team collapsed on the point, and then it was over.
Akash showed up after the match for an interview on Harrisburg’s stream, touting Northwood’s cohesion and tight-knit team as the reason for their success.
“No one person made individual plays, we made plays together and had each others' backs,” he said.
Akash was also confident about their team’s future, saying “Northwood university is a new dynasty… over the next four years, you can expect a lot from us.”
Chad Smeltz, the director of Harrisburg’s esports program was surprised by Northwood’s performance as well, and excited for the program’s future. Their participation in this year’s tournament was facilitated by the event being online, and “we got to have a lot of schools who are geographically far away due to the nature of it not being person,” said Smeltz
Hopefully we’ll see some good competition coming out of all these teams in the coming months, with Tespa and the Riot League of Legends collegiate tournament coming up soon.