Students from Ohio State “League of Legends” team compete in the Harrisburn University Esports Invitational on Sept. 20. Credit: Aaron Lien | Lantern Reporter

With no jerseys, scholarships or prior practice as a team, Ohio State League of Legends was the underdog heading into its semifinal match against Harrisburg University Team A. 

“We are definitely underprepared when it comes to the rest of the teams here,” mid-lane player Kevin “Peridot” Zhao said. 

Each game in the series was a drawn-out endeavor between both teams, but eventually Harrisburg ended Ohio State’s tournament run by taking two of three games. The average game time during the series was 43 minutes and 25 seconds, compared to one 23-minute win against Kent State. 

Ohio State’s team earned a fourth-place $3,125 prize. 

“League of Legends” is a multiplayer online battle arena game where two teams of five players compete to destroy each other’s base. Each player has a different role to fulfill for the team, choosing characters from a pool of 145 unique “champions.”

Ohio State sent its LoL team to the Harrisburg University Esports Invitational Friday and Saturday. Harrisburg invited 64 collegiate teams that represented 35 colleges across the country.

The Ohio State Esports program has yet to hold tryouts for its official teams, so the teams were made up of Buckeye Gaming Collective members. 

When practicing together as a group of five, one player always had to be subbed out due to sudden sickness or schoolwork, Zhao said. 

Despite its lack of experience playing as a full team, OSULoL’s only losses during pool play were to both of the Harrisburg teams. Ohio State advanced to the top 16 bracket as the 12th seed. Matches in the top 16 were in best-of-three format.

OSULoL’s first match in the upper bracket was against Maryville Team B. Maryville was one of the favorites in the tournament to win, with its A team winning the entire collegiate league earlier in spring 2019. Many of Maryville’s players were among the highest-ranked at the tournament, and some have tried to play professionally. 

“I had heard a lot about Maryville being one of the most stacked teams, and on paper they should have wiped the floor with us,” jungle player Daniel “Icelandic Hero” Helgason said.

Ohio State swept Maryville 2-0, using irregular fighting tactics that relied on kills to secure objectives. 

“Once we won the first game, we got a lot of confidence that we could win the next one,” top-laner William “Ayylmaozedong” Ma said. 

Robert Morris met the Buckeyes in the quarterfinals for an affair that stretched to a decisive third game. Ohio State won the contest 2-1.

Winning the quarterfinals meant that OSULoL was guaranteed a share of the $25,000 prize pool. Its semifinal matchup was against Harrisburg University Team A, the No. 1 seed of the upper bracket. Harrisburg had not lost a game until the quarterfinals, making it the favorite to win the series, if not the entire tournament. 

OSULoL won the first game after a strong start. It led by a wide margin in the second game but lost due to a lack of synergy, Helgason said. After dropping Game 3, its tournament run was over.

Ma said the team was coming off a loss in Game 3 so it did not select its champions wisely in the game. 

“I think a few of us just choked in that game,” Helgason said. “Afterward I heard that Harrisburg had to pull out their secret strategy for Game 3 because they could not risk saving it for finals.”

In the finals, Maryville A won against Harrisburg A in a 2-0 sweep. Throughout the entire tournament, Maryville did not lose a single game. 

“To see [Ohio State] again and to take us to game three, we were like, ‘Holy crap. We barely won,’” Alex “Xpecial” Chu, head coach of both Harrisburg teams and former professional “League of Legends” player, said. 

Astin “Riverell” Lin achieved the most kills out of the upper bracket with 86.

As for kill assists, Kyle “Cleveland” Kasper and Helgason were No. 1 and No. 2 at 123 and 106, respectively.

Despite the semifinals loss, Chu said Ohio State should be happy with its performance. 

“It’s not easy to be top four,” Chu said. “For such a new school that we didn’t expect coming into this tournament to do so well, the players should be super proud of themselves.”