Jake Blitch sits in front of his computer set up with three monitors

Jake Blitch (analyst for the Ohio State Overwatch Premier team). Credit: Courtesy of Jake Laughlin

The Ohio State esports program is one of the only competitive programs at Ohio State that is gearing up for a somewhat normal season of play this fall, but things are still slightly different compared to the norm of what takes place around this time for the premier teams.

For the Overwatch premier team, operations have moved faster than normal in preparation for TESPA –– formerly known as the Texas eSports Association –– which is the esports regular season of competition. The team hosted tryouts and finalized their roster just in time to play in the highly competitive Harrisburg University Esports Invitational tournament Sept. 19-20. 

Lucas Lumbra, a fifth-year in computer information sciences and a player on last year’s team, has now switched to an analyst role for Ohio State. Lumbra said that the timing of the circumstances created a formidable challenge for the team. 

“We had two official practices between the roster being finalized and the tournament and one unofficial in-house practice,” Lumbra said. “So that was good to have, but it really wasn’t as much as you’d like going into a big tournament like this.”

The Ohio State Overwatch premier team won one of three games played in the two-day tournament.

The tournament came shortly after the team assembled a new squad via tryouts just the week before. With less than a full week of time logged together, the team opened play Saturday and faced a variety of teams in terms of skill. 

Jake Blitch, a fourth-year in computer science and an analyst for Ohio State, said that each of the three teams it faced were of different calibers, which allowed them to get a good sense of where their newly assembled team stacked up against the competition.

“We got to face three different teams with varying skill levels from University of Louisiana at Lafayette all the way to [University of Texas at Dallas],” Blitch said. “So we got to start with a bit of a weaker opponent and went up in level and we did a pretty good job, but obviously room for improvement, and we also got to see what level we were at.”

Ohio State took their first matchup with a clean sweep of three maps against Louisiana-Lafayette, boasting a solid first victory for the newly formed team. 

Justin Yancey, a third-year in economics and a tank for Ohio State, said the win was not much of a surprise but still a new challenge for the team. However, he said that it didn’t give the team the momentum it hoped it would get for the rest of the tournament.

“We had scouted out our side of the bracket and saw that Lafayette was going to be an easier team that we were going to face,” Yancey said. “So we tried to carry that moment from that win throughout the tournament but it didn’t really pan out as well as we hoped.” 

The team went on to face the University of Akron and lost a hard-fought set in which it lost 3-2. 

After losing that tight second round matchup against a solid Akron team, they faced UTD, who was one of the top teams in the tournament. Ohio State lost the series, winning just one of four maps that were played. 

Lumbra said that the UTD game was one where they had nothing to lose but still put in an exerted effort into the match. 

“We knew that UTD were going to be better than Akron, they just beat Akron 3-1 when we were getting ready to play them,” Lumbra said. “They are one of the, I keep saying, top 10 programs in the country and that carries a lot of weight going into it.”

The second loss marked the exit for the team in the HUE Invitational, causing them to miss out on a chance of winning the $20,000 prize reward. 

But even with the losses suffered to two quality teams, the tournament was a building block for the recently constructed Overwatch team. 

“One positive was that we were able to get some high-end competitive competition experience for some of the players who have less of that experience,” Blitch said, “Another positive would be getting some of the experience of high-stress communication in competition instead of in practice, even though you want those to be the same, but there’s going to be those differences.”

Moving forward, the team will continue to engage in weekly practices in hopes to get comfortable with playing with each other and getting to know one another, not just as players, but as people too. 

The team is unique in that it doesn’t select designated captains, but focuses more on having unified dialogue from every player, meaning the time spent together will play a significant role in how it performs in competitions. 

“We’ve kinda shied away from those roles,” Yancey said. “We didn’t want one person dominating the discussion or team coordination.”

The team will take this experience gathered from the tournament and move on into TESPA by trying to build upon the chemistry and lessons established.