Rocket League team claims top seed for BIG EAST Esports Winter Challenge playoffs

Rocket League
DePaul's Rocket League esports team is 11-1 and seeded No. 1 in next month's semifinals of the BIG EAST Esports Winter Challenge. (DePaul University/Katie Donovan)
After a runner-up finish in April’s inaugural BIG EAST Esports Invitational, the DePaul Rocket League team has picked up where it left off by powering through the three-week regular season of the BIG EAST Esports Winter Challenge to qualify as the top seed in December’s playoffs.

On the heels of a successful first foray into esports in April, the BIG EAST scheduled three weekends of regular-season Rocket League action for this fall that took place Oct. 21 – Nov. 4. The Blue Demons posted an 11-1 mark to claim the No. 1 seed, winning 34 sets while losing just seven. Highlighting the action was a pair of wins over Seton Hall, providing DePaul a measure of revenge after a tough loss to the Pirates in April’s BIG EAST Esports Invitational championship match.

The semifinals and finals are slated for Dec. 9. DePaul’s opponent will be finalized in the coming weeks.

Competing for the Blue Demons are juniors Linas Savickas and Donald Fairweather and freshman Emilio Pilapil. Alternates include junior Erik Wolf and sophomore Alex Rodriguez.

“The team and I were super excited to hear that we'd be playing again in a Big East event especially after our loss against Seton Hall last year,” says Savickas, the team’s captain. “I think a big thing that helped us start the tournament with an 11-1 record was our team dynamic. We all get along extremely well on and off the field, and I think that really helps us in our games.

“Gameplay-wise, I think our aggressive passing really catches a lot of teams off guard. We’ve also been lucky to have a great coach, alumnus Chris Jackson, who helps out in setting up practices and reviewing our games to see what we did wrong and could've done better,” Savickas added.

Fans can watch the semifinals and finals or replays of previous matches online on ESL Play through https://www.twitch.tv/depaulesports, https://www.twitch.tv/ESL_rocketleague and the BIG EAST YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCAcXdiimhsuivSn2PxtsRFw. Schedules and results for all upcoming competitions will be available on the BIGEAST gaming website​.

Rocket League games, which end when one team has won three of five matches, can last anywhere from 20 to 30 minutes and combines soccer with the physics of driving flying cars in a multiplayer game with three players per team.

Esports, or competitive video gaming, has exploded in the last five years, resulting in an industry that's heading towards the billion-dollar mark and sees an estimated 165 million people around the world watching at least once a month according to a Newzoo global eSports market report.

Around the country, more than 100 universities field varsity teams, with DePaul's Loop neighbor, Robert Morris University Illinois, fielding the first varsity program in the country in 2014.

DePaul opened an esports gaming center in April, and has seen excitement from the student body.

“Since the launch of our esports program at DePaul last year, we’ve discovered that students from all across the university enjoy participating as fans, recreational players and serious competitors,” Courtney James, director of student involvement, told the BIG EAST in a recent interview. “Recreational esports competition throughout DePaul has proven to be fun and engaging for our students while enhancing important skills such as strategic thinking, teamwork, communications and discipline.”

For more information on esports at DePaul, email esports@depaul.edu or follow @DePaulEsports on Twitter.

2018-19 BIG EAST Rocket League Season

Standings
1. DePaul (11-1)
2. Seton Hall (9-3)
3. Marquette (7-5)
4. St. John’s (5-7)
5. Butler (5-7)
6. Providence (3-9)
7. Xavier (2-10)

Results

Oct. 21
DePaul 3, Xavier 0
DePaul 3, Butler 0
DePaul 3, Marquette 1
DePaul 3, Providence 0

Oct. 28
St. John’s 3, DePaul 1
DePaul 3, Seton Hall 0
DePaul 3, Xavier 0
DePaul 3, Butler 1

Nov. 4
DePaul 3, Marquette 1
DePaul 3, Providence 0
DePaul 3, St. John’s 1
DePaul 3, Seton Hall 0

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