Playoffs are well on their way, and what a week it has been! Even though it’s only the first round of playoffs, it’s already a crazy start with three upsets, ridiculous late-game comebacks, and clown fiestas left and right. Like the vocal audience on Twitch chat during these games, the coaches themselves have some feedback and commentary to share with us.
The start of the season had several mix-ups that delayed some of the games for a week, leading to many of the players and staff becoming anxious about their first match. Regardless of when the matches were played, coaches were generally hopeful for their run during playoffs. “Our first opponent is the University of Manitoba,” Mark Anderson from Kansas State University (North #7) said before their match. “We feel that the match will definitely be close, and we hope that we are able to start the playoffs with an upset. They are a good team and went undefeated in the regular season, but we feel they are a somewhat untested team, which makes us believe we could upset them.” In essence, going undefeated during the regular season might reasonably boost players’ ego, leading to one-way stomps when they start to face top teams during playoffs. Many coaches feel, however, that other teams were never pushed to exceed their limits, and that over-confidence might be their Achilles’ Heel. Unfortunately for KSU, their confidence didn’t translate to a win and were eliminated in a one-sided defeat.
Never being the underdogs in any of our matches puts us in a good position to be upset so we took the match as seriously as we would any other. – Drake Porter, Columbia College (MO) Head Coach
Of course, not all undefeated teams are like this. During the first week of playoffs, two strong teams were put to the test: Carnegie Mellon University (East #7) and University of Ottawa (East #2). Carnegie Mellon University, famous for their robust roster and tight rotations, had secured themselves a playoffs spot after a string of victories late in the season. On the other hand, University of Ottawa (East #2) is a prime example of an undefeated team that had only pushed themselves harder after the Swiss stage. Emphasizing their team’s ability to determine their opponent’s strongest player and shut them down, Trent Schwartz – UO’s coach – commented that he “felt good going into the match [but] once we shut him down the series wasn’t that hard.” After the series, Schwartz was surprised that their opponent, Carnegie Mellon University, had been able to take a game off of them: a feat not accomplished by any other team.
Unfortunately, not all the games ended up being played out. Drake Porter from Columbia College (North #1), expressed his sadness that their opponents ended up forfeiting before their match: “We obviously felt quite confident going into the match and had a solid week of practice to back it up. Never being the underdogs in any of our matches puts us in a good position to be upset so we took the match as seriously as we would any other. Sadly our opponents were a no show and didn’t make an attempt to reschedule.”
The ever-dreaded “midterm/finals hell” is approaching rapidly. It’s hard to dedicate the same amount of time to practice when you’re drowning under exam after exam. “Playoffs are right during midterms, so it’s really hard to commit the same amount of time to practice when the kids have to be students first,” comments University of Utah’s (West #6) Kenny Green. “We put in the same amount of practice, but I know they had less time to play outside of it.” With midterms and finals looming around the corner for many collegiate players, it’s interesting to note that many of them are still managing to hit Solo Queue hard in order to prepare for their matchups. Green and the rest of Utah’s team are not alone: As a student myself, I found it difficult to even find enough time to play a single game.
Teams are getting more serious about their practice time. With each game mattering more and getting harder every round, the time for improvement is limited and everyone is challenging each other to play their absolute best. For some dedicated players, this simply means more practice. Some top collegiate teams, like University of Waterloo (East #6), have doubled their practice hours in the midst of other schools struggling to keep up with their regular season practice schedule. It’s amazing to think of their sheer commitment to the game and personal tenacity for improvement.
“Playoffs are right during midterms, so it’s really hard to commit the same amount of time to practice when the kids have to be students first.” – Kenny Green, University of Utah.
The regional quarterfinals are about to begin, and even after such an intense first round, the competition is only getting fiercer. With strict practice schedules and competitive scrimmages now commonplace amongst the playoff teams, the stage is poised to have collegiate teams pushing it to the next level. But with the seemingly insurmountable barrier of exams in the way, will teams be able to reach their true potential?
Looking at the schedule for week two, past rivalries are already resurfacing as two top teams, University of Waterloo and University of Ottawa, are scheduled for a rematch. After Waterloo’s loss during the group stage against Ottawa, they bided their time and primed themselves for another chance to overcome their strongest opponents. Waterloo, meanwhile, has completely transformed after their regular season and are hungry for victory. Like many others in the league, they were given a new life to aim for the gold. With that extra chance, they’re putting in their best efforts to capitalize.
Playoffs are in full swing, and the Peach Belt is already done! Catch all of the best College League of Legends coverage, analysis, and features right here at CSL by following us on Twitter, Facebook, and Twitch!
Matthiew Choi is an Analyst at Collegiate StarLeague and Mechanical Engineering Major at the University of California, San Diego. In addition to casual play, he is a former uLoL West Region semifinalist. In his free time, he bakes a mean macaron, but isn’t currently accepting recipe requests on social media.
For more on collegiate eSports check out https://cstarleague.com/