ETSU unveils inaugural e-sports varsity team, first game set for Monday

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JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) – East Tennessee State University has announced its new fleet of gamers, part of the inaugural e-sports varsity team.

Two teams will compete in ‘Overwatch’ and ‘League of Legends’, and will participate in tournaments hosted by the National Association of Collegiate E-sports.

News Channel 11’s Pheben Kassahun met with the team, just days ahead of the first game of the season.

At ETSU, this sports team will be stepping into another dimension.

“I’ve been really excited. I’ve been here ever since Day 1 when the program was first announced in November,” ETSU Overwatch team captain Amanda Greenberg said. “Really excited to watch the program grow.”

After eight months of tryouts, the university recruited these 22 students.

“They’ve [been] pitted against each other, high school students, potential high school students from across the country, even internationally. We have a few international students on our team,” ETSU e-sports interim coach Jeffrey Shell said.

According to the university, nearly $20,000 in scholarship support has been provided to 14 eligible team members.

Shell said, “Most of them land within the top three percent of the ranking ladder for the respective games, and they’re very much the cream of the crop for what we could find and we’re really excited to get to showcase kind of that skill level to everyone.”

The team was asked about the challenges this type of sport faces.

“The biggest challenges in e-sports is like, in normal sports for example, it’s primarily based on team coordination. There’s not too much physical sort of, like skills that you need to perfect. Rather, there’s a lot of mental skills, and just overall team coordination,” Greenberg said.

The Overwatch® Fall Cup Playoffs begin in November.

According to a news release from the university, the League of Legends® schedule has just been released but the names of the schools ETSU will face-off against will be announced in the upcoming days.  The team will compete on Tuesday evenings at 6 p.m. beginning Sept. 29, with two games scheduled for Saturdays, Oct. 3 and 31.

While COVID-19 has put a damper on many sports teams, the e-sports varsity team has taken advantage of the physical distancing aspect.

Shell said, “We technically started practicing over the summer as we started signing some of our players. We’re very fortunate during COVID that we have the option to be completely remote from each other and still practice. So, we typically practice three nights a week, per game. That could include anything from internal practices with each other, to looking at other teams across the country, and doing some scrimmages with them or just sitting back and reviewing our own game play- kind of looking for our weaknesses and trying to build upon our strengths and through self-critical review.”

The e-sports varsity team will compete against Cornell White Monday, September 28 at 8 p.m., in the new esports arena in the D.P. Culp Student Center. The room features a 32-inch video wall.

Those who prefer to watch at home can tune in on twitch.tv/etsuesports.

Other schools the team is set to play against are Indiana Tech University (Oct. 1); Kettering University Overwatch Academy (Oct. 5); Purdue Fort Wayne Esports (Oct. 8); St. Ambrose University (Oct. 12); BYE (Oct. 15); Great Bay CC Herons (Oct. 19); Iowa Central Tritons (Oct. 22); LCU Overwatch (Oct. 26); Spoon River College Esports (Oct. 29); and Mizzou Club Esports (Oct. 30).

Games will be held every Monday and Thursday at 8 p.m.

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