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Esports club launches SVC into competitive gaming: Three schools compete in Rocket League tournament

By Jacob Rzempoluch, Sports Editor

Originally Published November 28, 2023

For as long as video games have existed, people have competed to see who the best was. The first video game, Tennis for Two, was made so that two players could compete. As computers become more sophisticated, the range and quality of video games available rapidly increased. The introduction of multiplayer online games allowed players to compete against people from around the world without leaving their home. Video games have become a cultural mainstay, but Saint Vincent College (SVC) did not have any sort of gaming club until last year. In the fall of 2022, the SVC Esports and Gaming was founded by a group of students including current president Chris Hopstetter, junior cybersecurity major.

“I wanted to build a place for people to come together to play video games,” Hopstetter said. “I love playing video games. I’m a cybersecurity major, so I love all things computers.” Initially, the club was just a place to discuss and casually play video games. The idea of forming competitive gaming teams quickly arose during club event planning discussions.

Drew Joyce and Chris Hopstetter provide commentary during the SVCRLPI Twitch livestream. (SOURCE: @svcesports YouTube)

“It was always a thought in the beginning, but we didn’t have the number of people we needed to do it,” said Hopstetter. Rocket League would become the first game the club sponsored an Esports team in. Since its release in 2015, Rocket League rapidly became a popular choice for competitive gamers. The game is essentially soccer with a twist: players control rocket-powered cars instead of human athletes. Games range from one-on-one to four-on-four and take place in an arena with walls that can be driven on.

SVC competes in the National Esports Collegiate Conference (NECC). The Rocket League teams compete in the Navigators championship, with the varsity SVC Gold team competing in the Mideast Division A while the junior varsity SVC Emerald team competes in the Great Lakes Division B. Regular season matches use a best of five format, with the first team to win three games taking the match victory. In their first season, the Gold team finished with a 4-3 record and a championship tournament berth before a first round exit. The Emerald team’s record was 1-5.

After the Esports team was established, the club discussed hosting a Rocket League tournament. Officers emailed every Rocket League program in the state and invited them to compete in the first-ever Saint Vincent College Rocket League Pennsylvania Invitational. The Esports and Gaming Club partnered with Gilbert & Sullivan Club, History Club, and STEM Club to organize the ambitious event and to set up a watch party in the Carey Center on campus. The University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg (UPG) also played a key role in the event’s success; UPG allowed the club to use their Esports lab for SVC’s players as well as the commentary livestream, which was streamed on the club’s Twitch channel.

Cars are launched away from the goal after scoring. (SOURCE: Howard Community College)

Saint Vincent’s team for the Nov. 18 tournament consisted of Justin Bruno, senior computer science major; Ronan Gaab, sophomore marketing major; Noah Henry, freshman business major; and Brandyn Brock, senior mechanical engineering major. UPG had two teams competing and the Pennsylvania College of Technology (PCT) also took part in the tournament. Hopstetter and Andrew Joyce, sophomore physics major, provided commentary for each game and interviewed teams in between matches.

The tournament consisted of two rounds. First a round-robin series allowed each team to face the other three teams. Then the three teams with the best records continued to the championship bracket. Saint Vincent Gold unfortunately lost all matches; however, this allowed Brock to join the commentary booth for some of the finals bracket. PTC and UPG-1 advanced to the championship match, with UPG-1 coming out on top after a 4-2 series. The tournament stream was uploaded to the club’s YouTube channel, @svcesports, and can still be viewed.

University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg nears an eighth goal in a blowout win the take the SVCRLPI title (SOURCE: @svcesports YouTube)

Overall, the participating teams and the Esports club viewed the tournament as a success. The club plans to expand into other Esports, with two Overwatch 2 teams and a Valorant team forming for the spring semester. Fortnite and Rainbow Six Siege may also soon be sponsored by the club. Esports is a young field of competition and is still growing in popularity and legitimacy. The Esports and Gaming Club hopes to establish teams that encourage student engagement on campus while being competitive.

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