On Saturday, December 2nd, the Harrisburg University Storm, League of Legends team competed in the NACE Starleague Grand Finals in Boise, Idaho versus long-standing rivals, Maryville University. The HU Storm fell to Maryville 0-2 in a hard-fought battle in the Boise State Esports Arena.
Harrisburg University of Science and Technology has only one varsity sport – esports. Starting in 2018, the HU Storm esports team garnered national attention, previously winning 3 national championships with the now-dissolved Overwatch2 team in 2019, 2020, and 2022. 16 students currently attend HU full-time to compete on the teams’ rosters in League of Legends, Valorant, and Rocket League. All three teams compete in the NACE Starleague Varsity Premier tier, among other collegiate esports leagues. The League of Legends team is the only Storm roster this semester who made it to the grand finals in NACE Starleague.
The HU Storm League team has had a Cinderella-run semester after going 0-7 at the HUE Invitational this past September. The team showed major signs of improvement at the SixtySix Games Expo LAN in Bloomington, Illinois back in October, finishing the event in the top 8. The students continued to polish their skills and went through the NACE regular season undefeated with a 9-0 match record and did not drop a map until the playoffs versus the St. Clair Saints, who they defeated in the semi-finals, qualifying for the grand finals event. HU Storm League of Legends Head Coach, Tanner Deegan, had this to say about what it meant to the team to qualify for the Finals:
“Going into the school year, I knew that our team was going to take some time to put the pieces together. Our new recruits are fresh faces to the competitive scene, bringing a steady work ethic, innate coachability, and positive contributions to our cultural rebuild. Now more than ever, competitors are focused on their skill floor as opposed to their team’s ceiling, but not us. Our long term development approach may have looked rough at the start from the outside looking in, and making NACE Grand Finals may have come as a surprise to some, but to us, it wasn’t, because we trust our process. NACE Grand Finalists is a good start, one to be proud of, but it’s only a benchmark for us.”
The Storm League of Legends team travelled to Boise, Idaho on December 1st to prepare for their highly- anticipated matchup the next day versus Maryville University. The match was held in the Boise State Esports Arena, a state-of-the-art esports arena, practice space, and production studio. The Storm was feeling great prepping for the match and had a good start to both the games. Maryville managed to surpass the Storm after the first few fights of the game and secure the win for both games.
“Finals in the Fall semester tend to be on the tougher side for a few reasons. One being that it’s the end of the semester, so the academic workload is at its highest. Another reason being that the winter weather doesn’t impact morale the same way the warm spring weather does in April/May,” Deegan added. “Lastly, the back half of the fall semester lines up with the League of Legends World Championships, which tends to bring heavy gameplay changes and stylistic switchups. Being a team that has a clear playstyle & systems, having to make moderate to heavy playstyle adaptations for the meta this late in the semester can be a challenge. With all this considered, the players performed well. Maryville had a strong showing & I walked away from the event knowing that we’re going in the right direction with our performance.”
The HU Storm League of Legends team now sets their sights on the Riot Games-run College League of Legends (CLoL) tournament next spring where they hope to reach the top 8 and head to Los Angeles to compete in-person against the top League teams in the country.
“Spring semester is all about building on the foundation we set in the Fall as a team, both in game & out of game,” says Deegan. “We’re not here for some flash in the pan results. We’re here to show that we can consistently foster competitive, academic, and personal achievement. As the Head Coach, I’m looking forward to pushing ourselves in those fields and continuing to trust our process. The CLoL national circuit is the main show, and we’re looking forward to showing the rest of the competition that the underdog has bite.”
About NACE Starleague: NACE Starlegaue is run in conjunction by Playfly Esports and the national Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE). NACE Starleague is the largest collegiate esports tournament in North America, featuring different competition tiers for varying levels of varsity and club skillsets.
About Playfly Esports: Playfly Esports is helping to reshape how entertainment is consumed by younger generations with new methodologies that connect brands with gaming fans. We deliver scalable, media solutions that can directly place advertisers into the spotlight of the fastest-growing industry on the market, while monetizing custom built events capable of adapting to the consistently, all consuming streaming-based content sector of digital entertainment. Playfly Esports, in partnership with NACE, continues to own and operate NACE Starleague, the most comprehensive collegiate esports ecosystem in the world. In addition, Playfly Esports leverages the best practices from collegiate and is now supporting scholastic esports communities in Arizona, Louisiana, Oregon, Michigan and Washington.