By Kevin O’Brien
DePaul University, Esports Rocket League Team Executive Director, Major: Finance, Minor: Management
“We wanted to leave a long lasting legacy and set a bar that future students participating in DePaul Esports could aspire to reach.” – Erik “Rumble” Wolf
This is more than just a win for the DePaul Esports Rocket League team. This is the beginning of a new era for the team. Two weeks ago, our League of Legends team broke the DePaul Special curse when they won the Big East Conference against Seton Hall. Imagine the pressure of walking into the finals of the Big East Conference Championship against Seton Hall just two weeks after the League of Legends varsity team beat them.
DePaul Esports began in April of 2018 and the Esports Student Leadership Board formed in January of 2019. I came on as the executive director with one goal in mind, to showcase to the world what DePaul Esports can do and help foster the next generation of industry leaders. DePaul Esports has four main pillars: academics, inclusion, entertainment, and leadership. All of our decision making revolves around those four pillars and aims to provide an experience for our community that has never been present at DePaul University before.
On October 29th, 2019, The EGF and BIG EAST Conference announced the EGF BIG EAST Esports Invitational. We were excited to hear that the invitational would be held in NYC to allow teams to attend and play in person. The DePaul Esports varsity Rocket League team was eager for the chance to grab their first BIG EAST title.
The Blue Demons Varsity Rocket League Roster:
Captain: Alex “Karmajuney” Rodriguez | Junior | Computer Science
Emilio “Flux” Pilapil | Sophomore | Film Editing
Erik “Rumble” Wolf | Senior | Data Science
Noah “Oafish” Kalafut | Senior | Math/Computer Science
Coaches: Curtis “Captain Curtle” and Alex “MightyTidy”
EGF Big East Invitational Prelims
November 3, 2019, the Blue Demons played Xavier University in the first preliminary match and swept them 3-0. While this was a great win for the team, I noticed that our gameplay was not necessarily representative of a team; it was more of a showcase of individual skill levels. We started working on our communication, managing in-game emotions, team building, and changing the culture of the community.
In week two, November 10, 2019, Seton Hall beat the Blue Demons 3-2 after a reverse sweep. This was a turning point for the team as we came together that night and dove into our weaknesses were and how we could fix them. We brought on a new coach, Alex, to help teach the team some small technical tweaks that could allow us to elevate gameplay. More importantly, this was also a time to work on self-reflection, trust, and communication.
“When I came to the team they were very indoctrinated in the solo queue individualistic carry playstyle. I’ve tried my best to teach the boys how to play with their teammates, rather than having to solo carry as one would in ranked.” – Coach “MightyTidy” Alex
November 24, 2019, the Blue Demons went up 2-0 against Marquette University. But Marquette came back to win the next three games for the second reverse sweep in the BIG EAST. What happened after the loss helped to shape the team for the invitational in New York City. Instead of closing off and heading home, we spent an hour listing all our weaknesses and strengths. We then worked with the team to create a goal and a mission.
Goal: Leave a Lasting Legacy at DePaul Esports.
Mission: Have fun, build relationships, grow as a team and as a player, and win/lose as a team.
“No matter what happens, always remember your goal. Leaving a lasting legacy stretches further than one tournament, one game, one person. If you win, win as a team. If you lose, lose as a team. The most important thing is to have fun and be a role model for the next generation of esports athletes.” – DePaul Rocket League
EGF BIG EAST Invitational in NYC
“Going into EGF LAN, the key factors needed to win were ‘trust’ and ‘composure’. In the past, we’ve had times where players would try to do everything themselves, or the team would falter under the pressure of a series-game situation.” –Coach Curtis
The Blue Demons walked into OS New York City as a team. EGF created a perfect competition space and really paid attention to detail in the set-up. We started at 11:45 AM against St. John’s University and played every team twice in our round robin group. The last match was played at 5:45 PM and we ended the day 8-0.
Noah “Oafish” Kalafut reported, “The venue was fantastic. Being able to eat food at the venue allowed for teams to talk with each other and build a sense of community. The computers were also very good quality. EGF had no major issues like a lot of other 1-2 day tournaments (such as delays).”
The semi-finals were against Butler University, the reigning BIG EAST Champions who were undefeated in preliminary seeding matches. We were able to eliminate them 4-0 to advance to the final against Seton Hall. The Pirates had yet to drop a single game over the course of the weekend, boasting a series record of 7-0 and a game record of 21-0 going into the finals. Our Blue Demons had a series record of 9-0 and a game record of 28-8, playing 15 more games than Seton Hall.
Everything we have worked on came down to this final series. The stage was set, and our DePaul Esports community was ready to cheer on the Blue Demons as they took on Seton Hall.
Alex “Karmajuney” Rodriguez spoke on EGF, “I really liked the communication and the organization of the event. I always knew what was happening and I felt EGF helped the players get into the game and compete on a competitive level.”
EGF Big East Conference Finals
DePaul Esports took the first game after Karmajuney scored in overtime to hand Seton Hall their first loss of the EGF Big East Invitational. In game two, Seton Hall responded by scoring 2 goals in the final 20 seconds to give them the win to tie up the series 1-1.
“It comes down to defense in the end.” — Jeff ‘Hunted’ Lowe, EGF Caster.
DePaul commanded game three with Flux scoring a hat trick to secure the 3-1 win. The back and forth continued, with Seton Hall taking an early 2-0 lead in game four. Seton Hall’s defense kept the Blue Demons at bay to help Seton Hall finish with a 3-2 win.
After a hard fought game four, Rumble scored a goal in the first 13 seconds of game five. This is a direct reflection of the mental strength of the DePaul Esports team. Seton Hall regained control and were up 3-1 with 2 minutes left. In spectacular fashion, the Blue Demons took it to overtime, but Seton Hall responded and moved the series to 3-2 in the Pirates’ favor.
In game six, Seton Hall scored just 2 seconds into the match. Normally, that would get in the minds of our DePaul team. But remember, this is a new team. The atmosphere in the OS NYC was electric as we took a 3-2 lead with 2 minutes remaining. DePaul held on to the lead, and our varsity Rocket League squad forced a game seven with a final score of 4-2.
“Let’s go boys, just remember to have fun.” — Coach Curtis
Rumble pulled in the first goal of game 7 and the fist bumps between the team had more force than they usually do. With 2 minutes remaining the score was 2-2. The Blue Demons keep pressing. With 9 seconds remaining, Karmajuney’s shot was too much for Breezy and the Blue Demons narrowly scored off the right post, securing the victory with the final score 3-2.
The seven game series had a combined total of 106 shots, 54 saves, 33 goals, and 27 total assists. For the Blue Demons, their edge came with how well rounded the team was:
Flux: 7 goals, 4 assists, 9 saves, 19 shots
Rumble: 3 goals, 8 assists, 8 saves, 14 shots
Karmajuney: 8 goals, 1 assist, 10 saves, 17 shots
“That was one of the best, best of 7 Rocket League matches I have ever seen.” — Cavan ‘Navac’ Dignan, EGF Caster
For the first time, the Depaul Varsity Rocket League team was able to wear the gold medal. Not only was this a great stepping stone for DePaul Esports, it was also a valuable moment of personal reflection for our players. Six months ago, none of this would have been possible. On December 8, 2019, they won as a team and not as individuals.
“This weekend the boys really came together and believed in one another. They trusted each other to be in position for passes, or to come up big for goal-line saves. And when we went down 3-2 in the Seton Hall series, everyone took a deep breath. Everyone stayed relaxed, in control, and believed that we could come back. I’m so proud of the boys and how well they’ve come together as a team.” — Coach Curtis
After the event, I was able to catch up with some of the players and community members to get their perspectives on everything.
Linas was able to catch the game on Twitch, “It was awesome seeing people from each of the communities at DePaul coming in to Twitch chat to support the Rocket League team. It really feels like we’re a family, and the creativity was through the roof with some of the copypastas”.
Alex, the director of community for the Esports Student Leadership Board said, “In following the action throughout the tournament on DePaul Esports’ Twitter, you could just feel how much a W would mean for our Rocket League squad. Safe to say, once we did close game 7 and secure the win, this news made waves throughout DePaul’s social media circles.”
What are some of your most memorable moments from competing with EGF in NYC and how have you developed as a team/player because of it?
Emilio “Flux” Pilapil
“The most memorable moments from the weekend was obviously winning the tournament after getting reverse swept our last two series for seeding matches. Also, walking around NYC with the team and having a good time outside the game was a lot of fun.”
“I think between a few weeks ago and (up) to LAN, my mental strength has improved a lot. I used to get tilted very badly whenever we lost, and especially after getting reverse swept by Seton Hall and Marquette in league play. As a team, our chemistry got better and with the new playstyle we learned from Alex (MightyTidy), our rotations were improved a lot and we were able to find each other better than we did before.”
Noah “Oafish” Kalafut
”After every game, teams would go and shake hands. Despite being out of the tournament, some teams such as Marquette stayed and cheered on the remaining competitors. None of the teams seemed bitter about losing. Everyone seemed like they were just happy to be competing.”
“I didn’t really understand how much mental game and teamwork could come into play until this tournament. I also never realized how sportsmanlike a lot of the people would be. My faith in humanity has been heightened.”
Erik “Rumble” Wolf
“Some of my most memorable moments was the overall level of comradery developed with my teammates. We came together and accomplished the goals and values that we started the Big East campaign with. There were a few in-game plays that stood out the most for me, some passing plays where everyone had influenced how the ball was moved into an attacking position and result(ed) in goals. The most memorable moment is coming back from behind in the Grand Finals to take the win.”
“Bonding with everyone that was on the trip was a huge success! Everyone spent a lot of time together and it was so easy to talk with everyone and share this experience of being in New York together.”
Alex “Karmajuney” Rodriguez
“Being able to travel and meet some of the players we’ve been competing with for the past few months. It’s great playing online, but meeting your opponents face to face was a great experience and allowed for a lot of great interaction and relationship building.
I really enjoyed the LAN setting. It was my first time playing in front of a crowd and having an applause upon goals and having the pressure of the high stakes gameplay created an unforgettable experience.”
“This event helped us develop tremendously. This weekend gave us the opportunity to understand each other and provided some team bonding experiences. It was great to go out and explore NYC with the bois and have a good time together outside of the esports center. I feel this team bonding was crucial in our development and helped us find each other within the gameplay during the final series.”