By: Coby Zucker
In week one of the College League of Legends tournament, McMaster’s team was rated 11th overall by ESPN. That’s 11th out of 350 teams across North America.
“We didn't expect it to be that high,” said coach Pedro “Photograph” Ribeiro. “We knew that we had to make a name for ourselves because a lot of teams, typically when they see McMaster, they underestimate our ability just because a lot of these other schools on these rankings do have esports programs at their schools.”
Ribeiro and the team let the pressure fuel them throughout their strong 5-1 regular season performance, only dropping games in their set loss to York University. The hiccup in their otherwise dominant season meant they had to face off against the Rochester Institute of Technology in the first round, while other playoff teams were granted an automatic bye into the second round.
“It was a pretty thrilling series,” said Ribeiro. “I've never really been through something like that.”
The first game in the series against Rochester went Mac’s way in a fairly one-sided victory. In the next game, the team’s collective focus wavered, and Rochester snapped up a quick response to level the score at one game apiece.
Game three was a 42-minute slugfest that eventually went in the favour of Rochester. After the game, Mac put in their substitute Jungler in an effort to shake something loose. The result was an assertive win to put the series score at 2-2. More than four hours into the series, the last game of McMaster’s season began.
“I don't know how to describe that final game,” said Ribeiro. “It was just a really exceptionally played game by both sides, and it was a true skill match up. They were definitely on par with our abilities which, going into it, we didn't expect them to actually put up too much of a fight. But they really did give it their all.”
The early exit for the highly-touted squad was particularly difficult as a number of players and staff are graduating this year, including Ribeiro and the team’s Support player, Marty “Diminish” Kyorskis. Nonetheless, Ribeiro thinks that the remaining players will be back with a vengeance.
“That’s unfinished business,” said Ribeiro. “They want to avenge us next year. At least some of the guys, that's what they're saying. I know they're probably going to go hard and try to make up for the mistakes and get better.”
The season might be over, but Kyorskis still has much to be proud of at the end of his collegiate career. As a progenitor of the McMaster Esports club, Kyorskis was able to help start legitimizing competitive League of Legends and the rest of the esports scene at Mac. He feels that even more can be done in the coming years.
“I think [McMaster] is reluctant to support gaming, as they see themselves as more of an academic institution,” said Kyorskis. “They think that it's going to affect their image, for example. But as the sort of train departs the station, more schools will say, ‘Okay, we need to get on this because it's a big thing’. It is a thing. And we don't want to look like that school that's stuck in the past.”
Kyorskis would encourage anyone interested to take the same dive into the world of collegiate esports that he made in his first year at Mac.
“Work hard at it,” said Kyorskis. “It's not a walk in the park. It's a serious commitment. You're going to have to put in a lot of work and you're going to have to be able to balance your life around getting better at the game and surviving school, because naturally we don't want to give up academics in favour of playing the game. The potential is there because we've set up the structure. So work for it, earn it, and you can do it.”
So what’s next for Kyorskis and Ribeiro after they graduate? Kyorskis, as one of the best Support players in North America, seriously considered pursuing a career as a pro-gamer before deciding that it was not for him. Instead he is going to work on growing his Twitch.tv following to stay involved with the game.
Similarly, Ribeiro can see himself involved with pro or semi-pro League of Legends but feels that he will more likely keep up his competitive League of Legends presence by supporting the McMaster team as an alumnus.