Illinois St Becomes Team Of Destiny At HUEFest
As its been since 2018, HUEFest at Harrisburg University marks the start of the Fall College Esports Season. In many cases, it’s the first time we get to see full rosters in action or new programs looking to make noise. The HUE Invitational this year only included League of Legends and Overwatch, but only one went according to script. When it was all said and done. Illinois St. Redbirds stood atop the Overwatch hill and unexpectedly the University of St. Thomas won League of Legends. With these two brackets now done and dusted, we have a very clear hierarchy in Overwatch. But now College League looks totally up in the air.
The Heirs Apparent
Ranked #12 in our top 25 esports schools, Illinois St. put together one of the best rosters we’ve ever seen. And not just in Overwatch but in all of College Esports. Before the HUEFest, Illinois St. went on to win the Overwatch NA Contenders Season 3. Contenders is just one tier down from the Overwatch League proper. Many rookie signings and OWL roster overflows find themselves in Contenders. At worst, it means the Redbirds are a semi-pro level. At best, they are the top North American team not in the OWL. And the results of the HUE bracket went according to that form.
Going up against Northwood University, a team that used HUE last year as a coming out party, the Redbirds got off on the front foot. Their tank line consisting of Corey “Reiner” Scoda and Zayne “Iron” Ramierez made sure they were always winning out the scrappy teamfights. And while Northwood put up competitive rounds in each map, they were simply out played on Havana. With Illinois St. now the top team in Overwatch land, it will be interesting to see how other powerhouses react.
The New New
On the other side of HUEFest, League of Legends confounded the experts. The group stages saw stalwarts like Maryville, Winthrop, Columbia and Harrisburg all advance to top 8s. But it was a couple of underdogs that would bring the most bark and bite. University of St. Thomas would march through Bethany and runners up Maryville before taking on University of St. Louis in the finals. SLU themselves downed Columbia and defending cLOL champions, Winthrop, on their road to the finals.
With stellar showings against a litany of championship favorites UST and SLU put on a show. With kill counts over 30 in all three games, the top/jungle partnership of UST’s TC Porsche and Kitzuo proved to be the x-factor. For a couple of teams looking to plant their flags down in the soil of college League, both made themselves looked deadly against all comers. In the end, it was UST who clutched out a critical fight at Elder Drake to push and win the HUEFest League title and garnering quite a bit of buzz around their aggressive play.
Unfortunately, some of the top performing schools of the last few semesters looked shell shocked from the in person, LAN environment. Northwood were able to get to the finals of but failed to beat Illinois St. But the hosts, Harrisburg, found themselves eliminated in the first round of knockouts in both brackets. Maryville? Out in the semi-finals of both brackets and Winthrop didn’t get past the first round in Overwatch. While It’s hard to say if this is a changing of guard, but fans of college esports should be excited to see some new names involved in League.