Story by Zach Avery, Reporter
Photo by Zach Avery
As a program currently still in their inaugural year, it certainly makes sense for the Aquinas College Esports team to be accomplishing plenty of firsts. They stand as one of the more well-established and financially supported teams in the state of Michigan, and their gaming equipment is top of the line.
Head Coach Adam Antor even consulted with the Esports team out of Boise State on what kind of technical layout works best for a competition and stream-focused group. However, what Antor did not expect was to have such a successful first year competitively.
Aquinas has been participating in varsity level competitive leagues for its different games, most recurring being the Great Lakes Esports Conference (GLEC) and the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE). Most notably, the Aquinas College “Rocket League” team has been doing exceptionally well in both leagues, currently standing at 5-1 in the former.
What is especially exciting, however, is the Rocket League’s performance in NACE. They finished top ten in the regular season among the other varsity programs and have proceeded into the playoffs. The quarterfinals match was the night of Thursday, Nov. 7, and Aquinas won both the quarterfinals match and the semifinals match against Shawnee State.
The semifinals match was incredibly close, ending the series in game five, after a very close game four. Aquinas was able to pull through to secure its spot in Atlanta. The grand finals match against Mizzou University is on Sunday, Nov. 17, so make sure to check it out.
Success in the competitive sphere does not come easy. Aquinas’ Esports teams (League of Legends, Overwatch, and Rocket League) are mandated to practice three times a week for at least two hours each session. These practices and meetings can either be repetitive scrimmages for the players to learn teamwork and cohesion, or the players will often meet up to review footage from previous matches in order to spot easy mistakes and potential solutions.
When asked what sort of challenges or obstacles have emerged throughout this first season, Antor was willing to admit that an aspect that he had not foreseen was the importance of teamwork and friendliness between the players.
“If a team doesn’t mesh together, then nothing gets done. It really shows in games like Overwatch and League of Legends,” Antor said.
While a team mindset is always something that athletes can continually work on and improve, Antor is extremely satisfied with the support he has gotten from both Aquinas College and the local community.
“I just open up the lab, and the students do all the work. They make the magic happen,” Antor said.
As the Aquinas College’s Esports team and facility grows and improves upon itself, Antor hopes the program will emerge as a hub for collegiate Esports talent in Michigan. They have already begun to help West Michigan high schools launch their own Esports programs, answering any questions that aspiring coaches and managers may have.
“My first answer to almost any of their questions is always, “Go find kids”. They’re there. There are kids everywhere playing video games, you just have to find them,” Antor said.
Last year there were only four high school Esports programs in West Michigan, but now there are ten. The programs continue to grow! Antor hopes some of his players will even volunteer to assist in supervising tryouts at local schools. He is proud of the excitement that so many students express at the idea of growing up and playing Esports at Aquinas College. Antor is always looking for the next level of competitive talent, and he knows it’s here in Grand Rapids.
Stay updated on all things Aquinas Esports at their streaming channel, twitch.tv/AquinasEsports, as well as their newsletter on the Aquinas College athletics page.