Concordia Rocket League season in review
How the Esports team navigated through a year like no other
The Concordia University Rocket League team has just completed their first season in the Ontario Post-Secondary Esports tournament, and it has been a season to remember for the squad. From injuries to players moving in and out of eligibility, the team has had to endure a lot of hardships.
James “Littlemac” Kierans founded the Concordia Rocket League program in fall 2019 when he decided to start a team to compete in the Collegiate Star League tournament, an invitational tournament that brings in teams from across North America to compete for invitations to the Collegiate Rocket League tournament. Kierans brought in most of the talent which makes up the program today, and the team's legacy lives on, now also competing in the OPSE tournament.
The Concordia team, unfortunately, missed the playoffs, but they were the team that had to make the most roster moves. In total, eight players ended up taking the stage for the team—a considerable number of players when you take into account that Rocket League is a game that is played with only three people on each team. Most teams only rostered four or five players, with most almost never using their substitutes. That’s part of what made Concordia’s season so unique: the amount of people pitching in to try and help secure victory week in and week out.
During the OPSE tournament, the team faced a few hardships. One of the major rules of this tournament is that players must be considered full-time students by their university. Unfortunately, star players Christofer “Yutramix” Elhage and Matthew "Haywyre" Harrington were considered part-time students, so they were no longer allowed to participate in matches. In order to be eligible to compete, students at Concordia must be taking at least 12 credits worth of classes. Harrington unfortunately is only taking 11 credits, which made him ineligible to play in tournament matches.
As well, Spencer McCool might be one of the first Esports athletes to go down with an injury, as he broke his thumb and was unable to play at peak performance for the remainder of the tournament. While McCool’s teammates liked to joke that he was not an important member of the team, his upbeat demeanor and vocal leadership helped keep the team in check during the season. Taking him out of the equation meant that the team lost an important vocal leader on the team.
At first, the team thought that the OPSE might not be as tough as the CSL league, but they were proven wrong quickly when the University of Waterloo and the University of Ottawa showed up to play. These teams both earned spots in the major CRL league and dominated the competition in the OPSE.
However, there were some memorable moments this year for them, as they thrillingly beat Conestoga College in a very close match. The teams were both tied, and then Concordia scored the winning goal with exactly one second remaining. Pierre-Luc "Beaver" Rioux-Ranger stole the ball from a Conestoga player, and then made a quick pass up the field to Victor "Nimbus" Maillé. Maillé then scored with one second remaining while Rioux-Ranger performed an important demolition on the opponents goalkeeper.
Led by Harrington and Maillé, the team has seen some success by way of their leadership. “We don’t really have an identity, the style is often that Haywyre and Nimbus set the tone, and we try to keep up,” said McCool about how he feels about playing with them. He, along with the other players on the team who are new to the competitive scene have learned a lot from their more experienced teammates.
Overall, the Rocket League team has a very close bond. Like most sports, each player has an in-game role as well as a personality role. For example, Rioux-Ranger takes on the role of the “team mom,” keeping everyone serious and focused on victory. Herrington and Maillé are the team captain and player-coach respectively. Even a player like McCool, who some would consider the “class clown” of the team—as evidenced by his entrance to a team interview by loudly opening a can and exclaiming “let’s get cracking boys”—plays an important role by making sure the atmosphere doesn’t get too heated.
While the team was slightly distraught over their poor showing in this edition of the OPSE, they are very excited for the next opportunity to prove themselves to other schools. “At the end of the day, this is only a hobby for us so it has to take lower priority than other things in life” said Kierans reflecting on the season. Kierans, who is completing his masters degree in mathematics, is graduating soon and has had to put Rocket League to the side a little bit in order to make sure he keeps up his grades.
“Rocket League is probably the video game which involves sports the most, even though games like NHL, [NBA] 2K, and FIFA exist. Rocket League is a great Esport to bring people together through its uniqueness.” described Herrington about his passion for the game. While most games of a genre are very similar to one another, such as first-person shooters and MOBA games, people gravitate towards Rocket League because there isn’t any other game like it. “Games like NHL and FIFA automate certain things, like passing and shooting, but in Rocket League it's all manual, making it a very unique game” added Herrington.
Unfortunately, the current roster will be losing some of its members to graduation, but tryouts will be open for the fall 2021 semester. The team has requested that any interested players, whether in Rocket League or any other Esports or games, join the Concordia Esports Discord Server to learn more about the team and potentially apply to join.