The team is proud of how fast they’ve come together
After a complete overhaul in the off-season and a slow start, Ryerson’s Overwatch team is back in the Tespa Collegiate Preseason Overwatch playoffs.
Many of the players from the 2019-2020 Overwatch team opted not to return in the 2020-2021 season because of a stale competitive game state and the introduction of the brand new first-person shooter (FPS), Valorant. The result is an entirely new team, featuring many players with no competitive esports experience.
“I wasn’t even planning to play, but we just had so little prospects,” said third-year Chris (Toast) Jiang, the team manager and tank player.
Although the Tespa season officially begins in the spring, the pre-season acts as a training ground for teams to test their skills and prepare. There’s also the $28,000 USD prize pool to sweeten the deal.
In the first half of the Tespa pre-season, the team’s first game was also the first time they had played together, Jiang said, adding that he felt they’ve come a long way since then.
“It’s pretty cool to see our team improve where we are going into the second season and we’re doing so much better,” said Jiang.
The Ryerson team was not deterred by a failure to qualify for the playoffs in the first half of the pre-season. They bounced back, recording a 5-1 record to enter into the playoffs — which began with a single-elimination round of 128.
Their only loss in the qualifying games was to the highly ranked University of Texas Austin A Team, who boast multiple players in the top 500 of the online ranked ladder.
“They were really good,” said first-year Leah (Juncos) MacLaughlin, the team’s assistant manager and substitute support. “They were insanely good.”
And still, if the team wants to advance deeper into the playoffs, they may play a team at the same calibre as the University of Texas as early as the second round. That might mean the end goal isn’t necessarily a deep run. As it is, the team is already proud of their progress in making it to the playoffs.
“I was just literally trying to scrap together a team of six people,” said Jiang. “It wasn’t even ‘I need the six best’. So I’m just super proud that we got as far as we did. As a team, we’re going to push as far as we can get and whatever we get will be pretty awesome.”
Besides the Tespa pre-season, the Overwatch team also competes in the Ontario Post-Secondary Esports (OPSE) league. While Tespa has been on the decline — partially due to lack of support from Overwatch’s parent company, Activision Blizzard. OPSE is an organization that began this year with the goal of emphasizing Ontario collegiate esports.
“I think OPSE is going to be one of our main focuses later on as the (organization) grows because that’s the more local tournament,” said second-year student Benson (PlebW) Lam, who plays DPS (damage per second). “The schools in Ontario are very good at Overwatch.”
Although the Ryerson team favours their games in OPSE, the competition is much stiffer and their 1-3 record shows it. But the chance to test themselves against top schools like Carleton University and the University of Waterloo — along with more support from the OPSE management — makes the experience valuable.
“The Ontario league is very, very competitive,” said Jiang. “The pool of teams we’ve played in the Ontario region have been far, far better than Tespa. The tournament itself is better organized. Sometimes they have casters and they’re on top of their stuff in terms of organization and match times.”
“I think the OPSE, for me, is more fun to compete in,” said MacLaughlin. “It means more to me to beat York, for example, than a school in Florida.”
Still, for the time being, their sights are set on the start of the Tespa playoffs on Nov. 22.
The Overwatch team is made up of Chris (Toast) Jiang and Yunyi (Alex) (JUNKRAT) Lian on tank; Zhongling (William) Wang and Benson (PlebW) Lam on DPS; and Dongjun (Mr Clean) Wu and Yuyao (Astatium) Gui on support. Leah (Juncos) MacLaughlin and Christopher (Fraadchikin) Wong round the team out as substitutes.
OPSE Twitch: https://www.twitch.tv/opsesports
Ryerson Esports Club Discord: https://discord.com/invite/26mS2Wb