Esports

Ashland University esports Program Continues To Grow And Win

In a short period of time, Ashland University’s esports program has gone from non-existent to a force in collegiate gaming.

Announced as an addition to the Eagle athletic department on Feb. 1, 2018, the esports teams have joined the rest of the programs on campus in establishing a winning tradition.

– The Counter-Strike: Global Offensive team finished with an overall record of 18-4 this fall, and was the Midwest Conference Champions in the NACE Starleague. Notable victories came against Michigan Tech and Michigan State. The CS:GO team also was a finalist in the FACEIT Collegiate league, finishing in second place to Michigan State and earning $1,200 as a team.

– Ashland’s Overwatch team was Midwest Conference runner-up in the NACE Starleague, and qualified for playoffs this past fall. The Eagles finished 42nd in the Activision Blizzard Collegiate Homecoming, falling just short of the postseason.

– The Fortnite Eagles did well in PlayVS Trio events and the NACE Starleague Fall Cups. Freshman Brendan Hickey was the only AU player to qualify for the PlayVS solo grand finals, where he finished 37th nationally. Hickey and sophomores Lucas Ratcliff and Mikah Juma placed sixth in PlayVS trio event No. 1, and eighth in the event No. 2, and were one of the top collegiate trios in the nation.

For the two NACE Starleague Fall Cups, Hickey and Ratcliff placed second, and junior Skylar Sothard and junior Cooper Phelps placed third in the first cup. In the second cup, Hickey and Sothard won, and Ratcliff and junior River Wheeler placed fifth. They earned $2,285 total as a team.

– AU’s Hearthstone team, AU Gold, finished in the top 12 in the nation, and AU Purple finished 13th and also qualified for playoffs. The top eight teams moved onto the Collegiate Masters events, but both Eagle teams fell just short. Ashland was one of a few Hearthstone programs with two teams qualifying for playoffs in the nation.

– The Eagle Super Smash Bros team went 3-4 in the Collegiate Smash Circuit, but traveled to Cleveland and Columbus several times for players to compete in local tournaments there. Freshman Dominic Cole competed at the Riptide Major at Kalahari earlier in the fall, going 4-2 before being eliminated, but Cole was one of the first AU players to compete at a major tournament.

In total, Ashland’s esports teams competed in 92 varsity competitions in the fall, with a record of 60-32. Each game the AU esports program plays has a fall season and spring season, so the expectation is for that success to continue into the current campaigns.

Also in the fall, club rosters were developed for League of Legends, Rocket League and Call of Duty. Both Rocket League and Call of Duty will become varsity teams in NACE Starleague starting in the 2022-23 school year.

“From a coach’s perspective, I’m really pleased with how every team has played this season,” said Ashland head coach Alec Mueller, who was with the program at the outset as a player. “Our teams have grown too, and our recently added Call of Duty team did well. Excited to start again this spring and continue improving.

“Our plans are to add Rocket League and Call of Duty. I think those could go a long way. I feel everything is in a great spot. The only downside is we haven’t been able to compete in person. Our teams did really, really well this fall.”

While esports is by definition different than the other athletics teams, the players do experience similar things to those in “traditional” sports.

“Some players experience burnout,” noted Mueller. “It can be pretty common in other sports, too. As far as retention goes, it’s been pretty good.”

Said senior Hearthstone player Kameron McQuillen, “A lot of us, we get burned out. Us seniors, who have been here since year 1, we get burned out.”

McQuillen was quick to point out that another thing the esports team has received in the last four years, similar to the other AU athletics teams, is support.

“Ever since year 1, we had football players coming up to us and saying how cool it is that we can play at a collegiate level,” he said. “For me to go back to my high school sometimes, it’s a big recognition for us.

“Overall, it’s been pretty pleasant here.”

McQuillen said the appointment of Mueller as head coach has been a benefit to the current esports players.

“At first, it was a little awkward. We got to know him at a friend level,” said McQuillen. “As a coach, it’s nice to see someone that we’ve worked with in the past. He knows how most of us play. Being a previous player here, he knows what it’s like to be on campus.”

Eagle esports also is getting other athletic teams on campus involved in the program. Mueller said the AU swimmers will have an CS:GO team, similar to an intermural team in another sport.

“We’ve invited people on campus who have interest in those games,” Mueller said. “It’s a good way to get more of campus involved at all. That wasn’t in the program when we first started.”

Beyond competition, Mueller is pleased with his student-athletes’ work in the classroom. He noted that the Hearthstone team’s grade-point average in the fall 2021 semester was 3.39, and the CS:GO team’s fall GPA was 3.25. The entire esports team’s fall GPA was 2.98, and Mueller was quick to say he wants it to move higher than 3.00.

The 2021-22 Eagles sport a 43-player roster (39 men, four women). Moving forward, Mueller says that the entire esports roster will be at least 50 in the 2022-23 academic year.

“I see the future for us being still very dominant,” said McQuillen. “Even though we lose a lot of seniors, the underclassmen have learned from us. The more freshmen we get, they see we’ve played for four years, and they see we know how to compete. The future for the esports team is probable to keep going at such a successful rate.”

AU
ESPORTS/DS

Players Mentioned

Mikah Juma

Mikah Juma

Freshman
Fortnite

Kameron McQuillen

Kameron McQuillen

Sophomore
Hearthstone

Alec Mueller

Alec Mueller

Senior
Fortnite

Cooper Phelps

Cooper Phelps

Freshman
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Lucas Ratcliff

Lucas Ratcliff

Freshman
Fortnite

River Wheeler

River Wheeler

Sophomore
Fortnite

Dominic Cole

Dominic Cole

Freshman
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Skylar Sothard

Skylar Sothard

Junior
Fortnite

Brendan Hickey

Brendan Hickey

Freshman
Fortnite

Players Mentioned

Mikah Juma

Mikah Juma

Freshman
Fortnite

Kameron McQuillen

Kameron McQuillen

Sophomore
Hearthstone

Alec Mueller

Alec Mueller

Senior
Fortnite

Cooper Phelps

Cooper Phelps

Freshman
Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Lucas Ratcliff

Lucas Ratcliff

Freshman
Fortnite

River Wheeler

River Wheeler

Sophomore
Fortnite

Dominic Cole

Dominic Cole

Freshman
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Skylar Sothard

Skylar Sothard

Junior
Fortnite

Brendan Hickey

Brendan Hickey

Freshman
Fortnite

Cooper Phelps

Source: https://goashlandeagles.com/news/2022/2/3/esports-ashland-university-esports-teams-continues-to-grow-and-win.aspx

Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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