New Challenger Approaching: Esports Expands on the Hilltop

Super Smash Bros. players from around the Bay Area spend Halloween competing for a Nintendo Switch. PHOTO COURTESY OF LILLIAN WANG/DONS ESPORTS

USF Esports has something for everyone; whether you like platform fighters, fast-paced shooters, or just some friendly competition, the esports organization here at USF is the place to turn to. Esports on campus has established a strong community for both the competitive and casual player. The weekly Smash Bros. tournaments have gone from five to six people to 10 to 15 people regularly playing in the past weeks, said fourth-year student and Esports president, Lillian Wang.  

In addition to the casual student tournaments, they have competitive rosters in League of Legends, Valorant, Overwatch 2, Super Smash Bros., Hearthstone, Rocket League, and Apex Legends, and compete in a plethora of different leagues and competitions hosted by various organizations. 

These teams prepare for game day like any other athletic program, consistently practicing and watching film to get better and be ready for their next match. Teamwork is of the utmost importance in a game like Overwatch 2, making it essential for the team to be on the same page. “You have to work closely with five people and really think on your feet,” said third-year in-game leader Ishika Jain. In order for all six players to be in synergy, Jain and the rest of the team emphasized the importance of communication and knowing what to expect ahead of time. 

The Overwatch 2 team competed in their first competition online this past Saturday, Feb. 4, in the Boise State tournament. The team was one game short of getting through qualifiers and traveling to Boise for the West Boise State Regionals. The qualifiers consisted of a double elimination group stage where the team was up against University of Southern California (USC) and George Fox University. After losing 3-2 against USC, the Dons swept George Fox 3-0. In a rematch against USC to decide who will be traveling to Boise, the Dons unfortunately lost momentum and were swept by USC 3-0. 

Although the team hoped to be packing their bags for the tournament, they still were happy with the results, especially since they only had one practice session beforehand. “We got rushed into it,” said fourth-year support player Cencere Baker. “If we had a little bit more time, things could have worked out a little better, but I’m super proud of everything the team did.” 

The team’s high-level performance despite little preparation has Jain excited for where the team can go this semester. Seeing how strong the team chemistry is already, she said the team has great potential to grow and win future tournaments.

Dedication to the team will certainly result in wins, but it can be difficult to manage both school and practice. “We’d love to win and we’d love to try our best but we’re students first,” said third-year damage player Ethan Ramos. Jain and Baker both also emphasized the challenge it is to manage their time in order to be the best students and competitors they can be.    

For those who may not be at the skill level necessary to join one of the competitive teams, USF Esports still has a lot to offer. Wang dedicates a lot of her time creating a gaming community “like a second home” where students can get online after a week of schoolwork and feel safe and have some fun. One way Wang is working to build this community is through gaming events on campus. There are weekly Super Smash Bros. tournaments every Wednesday in the Undercaf from 6-10 p.m., where everyone is welcome to hangout and battle fellow Dons.

The organization also hosts larger Super Smash tournaments, inviting interested players from around the Bay Area to come and compete on campus. Lillian and the rest of the organization hosted one last semester on Halloween where players competed for the top prize, a Nintendo Switch. The intramural Overwatch 2 tournament is also in full swing, with student-organized teams competing against each other up until the championship in mid-March. Lillian and company plan to host another Bay Area Smash Bros. tournament this semester in early April.  

Games can be watched live on the USF Esports Twitch channel. In addition, Baker, Ramos, and Jain livestream their perspectives during their games on Twitch. Check out USF Esports on Instagram and Twitter to stay up to date on upcoming events and competitions.  

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