It’s the end of the first official Pac-U series of exhibition matches, and teams from the division are heading into proto playoff matches tonight that organizers call “spotlight matches”. According to USC varsity League of Legends coach Joe Jacko, “The spotlight matches are to showcase the matchups and rivalries that the Pac-U board thinks would be most engaging to viewers based on the matches we’ve held.”
The unofficial status stems from the organization trying to adhere to publisher guidelines, and run an exhibition series without fear of legal retaliation from Riot Games, Activision Blizzard or Psyonix.
There’s no prize pool, or any real ramifications for any of the teams other than honor points if they perform well against their peers in the old and storied Pac-12 division. However, watching all the Pac-U matches offers a way to discuss each school’s esports program in context before the actual seasons begin in Spring. Some schools like University of Washington and ASU showed off their versatility with solid teams across all three games, while other schools like UC Berkeley had great success in League of Legends, but struggled in Rocket League and Overwatch.
In Overwatch, Utah and the University of Washington dominated, Utah being an obvious favorite coming into the series after a strong performance in September’s HUE Invitational where they made it to the semi-finals and lost to Maryville. Utah and UW went undefeated and didn’t drop a single map, firmly cementing themselves as the best teams in the division. They’ll be playing each other today in the final match of this year’s Pac-U series, and though UW’s been performing well, they may find it tough to compete against the power DPS duo of Austin “CoolABC” Walsh and Colby “Coblart” Smith.
“We are expecting it to be a good game between us and UW, but we are confident going into the spotlight matches and we’re hoping to take it all,” said Coblart.
Though Utah’s matches were filled with technical brilliance, CU Boulder was caster Jesse Brawders’ favorite team to cast. “I don’t want to say toxic, but they’re definitely showmen when they play, and they always seem to bring a good game,” he said. Brauders also mentioned that Boulder, WSU and USC seemed to have the most engaging audiences. “I always go back to the stream to see what chat was saying the entire time, and the level of interaction was insanely high.”
There were a few moments to remember during the Overwatch series, recalling one of the first matches of the series where USC played against CU Boulder in a very close 1-1 match. They were pushing to the second point of Havana when Boulder’s Mei leapt from the sky, ulting down in a blizzard flurry with the rest of her team to systematically wipe USC from the face of the map.
And it’s tough to forget Alex “Platypus” Nguyen’s ridiculous Junkrat play just last week against WSU.
Stanford’s win over Cal last Friday marked the end to a dramatic series of Rocket League matches. Unofficial spots on the unofficial rankings were all but up in the air until last week, and the Pac-U schools came out swinging in their final showing of the semester.
It was a battle between ASU and WSU for the top spot, both of them coming into Week five undefeated, hoping to eek out a win against Boulder and Utah respectively. Boulder had been right up at the top of the pack the whole series, and didn’t hold back during their marathon match against ASU. After an overtime clutch goal by ASU’s Litnin to secure a Game 5, the Valvoline finesse of Flover, Trixen and Deeko (especially Flover, insane goals) combined to hand over ASU’s first loss of the series.
Utah’s been the team to watch throughout the series, and spent their five weeks poking the top teams, but never enough to convert close matches to victories. They either beat teams like Arizona and USC in easy 3-0 matches, or get into five-game slugfests with ASU and Boulder. It was the same story last Friday, where Utah managed to pull WSU into another 2-2 match, only to lose by one goal in the final game.
In League of Legends it was a pretty close battle between Berkeley, ASU and UW for the top spot. Boulder was a contender for a while and saw great success over the weaker teams in the league like USC and Arizona, but when put up against ASU they were promptly deleted.
Berkeley was certainly dominant, but showed some interesting gameplay in Week 2 during their match against OSU. It was a no question win Game 1, but Game 2 either saw OSU turn their monitors on to full brightness, or Cal decided that they weren’t super intent on winning.
For caster Dylan Palacios, “The teams that look the most cohesive are the ones that come out on top.”
We’ll be seeing which of the powerhouse teams can abide by that statement on Saturday, when ASU faces off against Cal, and UW against Colorado.
ASU Coach Michael Ahn didn’t have much to say regarding the match, responding to Annenberg Media’s request for comment with “2-0″.
Regardless of this match, ASU will be a team to watch going into the CLoL tournament. Their cohesion has been unmatched, and we’re starting to see players like Jungler Mason “Baekho” Choe and Top Nathan “Firetheft” Harris create big plays for the team. Of course, it’ll still be tough for them against powerhouse teams like Harrisburg University and Maryville.
Things didn’t go so well overall on the USC side. They had a good Week 1 showing in Overwatch against Boulder, after which the team’s manager Quiana “Jaru” Dang said “We just need more preparation than what we had (or didn’t have) this week.” Still, they never quite found their groove and found little success in the rest of the series, with a forfeit loss last week and another in tonight’s spotlight match not helping their position.
Rocket League also didn’t see much success, but started picking it up in the final weeks with great goals out of Jake “JKDriven” Kandell and Alex “Hammertime” Hemmerlein. They handily beat Arizona in the last match of the series, setting a benchmark for the team’s future.
USC’s LoL performance was also underwhelming, and they ended the series without a single game win under their belts, though it wasn’t for lack of trying. They had a close game against Arizona last week that they just couldn’t quite clutch out. According to Palacios, “USC kept trying to respond blow for blow but they started biting off more than they could chew and ultimately lost Game 1.” Game 2 was ultimately worse, and the team kept losing everywhere, though the team’s ADC Daimyan “USC Inferno” Angulo did his best to carry the game and his weak side performance was really impressive on Ezreal.
While the team’s performance didn’t result in wins, Coach Joe Jacko still saw the series as a beneficial learning experience.
“I trust that these experiences have led them to be a phenomenal asset to any team... and I could not be more pleased with their willingness to learn and step outside their comfort zone as we competed against some of the best teams in the Western US.”
USC’s LoL team will be playing against Stanford on Saturday, and the Rocket League team will play Cal on Friday.