Although traditional sports have been put on hold across Ontario, the collegiate Esports scene is thriving and the Durham Lords Rocket League team has developed into a championship-winning squad.
The Lords completed a perfect 6-0 season in the New England Collegiate Conference (NECC), entering into the postseason as the second seed and on Nov. 22, they took home the inaugural championship for the league after beating Illinois Wesleyan in the finals.
“It felt good, it felt like there was a point to all the work that we’ve been putting in. To say that we were the champions of the league,” said Ben Bramly, Durham’s manager and coach. ”To say that we were the best team out of everyone in that league was really fulfilling after all the long hours and hard work they put in to get to that point.”
Bramly said the pandemic forced the team out of its home at the Esports Arena on campus and back to online meetings through Discord.
“We’ve been consistently practising, we do team practises and scrimmage against other high-level collegiate teams, and even outside of doing that on maybe three nights a week we’ve been playing in five different leagues,” said Bramly. “We’ve been playing five out of seven nights of the week.”
The Lords also made it to the Unified Collegiate Esports Association finals on the same day after beating Grand View (Iowa) and The University of Illinois at Chicago, but ultimately fell to Northwood (Michigan) in the gold medal game – the only team that defeated them in the regular season.
Durham has been a consistent presence in leagues, often finishing near the top but not quite breaking through. General Manager of Esports at Durham College, Bill Ai, said the NECC win proves what this team can do.
“When we win championships, it just goes to show that with a dedicated team and group of players, you’re able to achieve things that people might not think you’re capable of,” said Ai.
The Rocket League team is now on break until January. When they return they’ll be looking to qualify for the biggest tournament of the year. The Collegiate Rocket League (CRL) hosted by the creators of the game, Psyonix and has more than $75,000 in scholastic prizes available for schools who enter the tournament.
The Lords narrowly missed out on qualifying for the last CRL tournament, but Bramly hopes the success the team is currently having will continue, and they’ll find themselves as one of the top 16 teams in North America.