By Nickolas Carroll, Staff Writer
As the collegiate esports scene continues to grow and flourish, the University of Missouri looks to expand its lineups. With three varsity teams—Overwatch, Rocket League, and League of Legends—representing the University with an impressive 71% overall win percentage within the program, including a national championship trophy. Mizzou is beginning to add teams in various other games with the Rainbow Six Siege team that just competed in the fall season playoffs. The players found out who was on the team just two days before their first game, and after a rough beginning, the roster was able to connect and win enough games to make it to the playoffs. Unfortunately, they had an early exit, but they are positive when thinking about their future, “We have tons of potential,” Matt Bennett said.
With the most experience on the team, freshman Ronald Joel is the current captain. He has played Siege since the beta was released in 2015 and managed to achieve the highest rank in the game for three seasons in a row. After the chaotic beginning of their season, Joel realized that their manager wasn’t their acting coach, so he began researching and creating strategies for each map in the game. When they had some time to improve, and he was able to organize everyone to fit what is best for the team, they were able to sneak into the playoffs as one of the last seeds. Joel is very confident that with good use of the offseason the team will be able to play more competitively against top-ranked schools come the spring split of the season.
Cameron Day is another member of the R6 club team. He is friends with Joel but never took the game as seriously. When he came to Mizzou and found out about the esports program, he originally wanted to play League of Legends but soon heard that a Siege team was being formed. He thought it would be more laid back and allow him to still enjoy his freshman year. Just like the majority of the team, Day is a Computer Science major and interested in artificial intelligence, though he’s not quite sure what type of career he wants in the future yet. Day is the designated “fragger” on the team, meaning he is the first one to go into battle and usually the first one to die while attempting to take out as many enemies as he can. Even though he came into this year expecting to just focus on being a new freshman he has fallen in love with the game all over again taking it as seriously as ever. He too is confident in the ability of the team and believes that they are preparing themselves well to make a deep run in the playoffs come springtime.
Ryan Wilkinson is probably the least experienced member of the team, picking up the game this year only after his roommate Day taught him how to play with the help of Joel. Wilkinson says, “I’m just hooked now, if he didn’t help me through it, I would not be on the team right now”. In high school, Wilkinson was a member of his school’s Overwatch and League of Legends teams, which really sparked his interest in the esports scene. After the fall split of his first semester, Day is fully engaged with the team and is dedicated to improving. He feels that everyone on the team wants to reach the status of a varsity sport. “We want to get to the point where the school recognizes us.” Wilkinson adds.
The fourth freshman in the club is Dylan Motley, a computer science major from Troy, Missouri. Motley had been searching for a Siege team to play on since he stepped foot on campus this fall. When he finally saw the interest form in the Mizzou Discord server, he jumped on the opportunity. Motley plays the support or flex roles on the team. On offense, he focuses on breaching through walls and creating new lines of sight while on defense he holds down certain areas and collects information for his team. Motley wants the team to continue to grow and represent the school, even if that means they outgrow his in-game ability.
The final member of the team may just have the most interesting situation as of late. Matt Bennett is a current junior at Mizzou who transferred to study computer science from Princeton where he was pre-med. “I just wasn’t feeling pre-med, I’m just waiting until I come across something that really interests me where I know that’s what I want to do.” Bennet said. Bennett lives off-campus and is more comfortable doing his own thing and working as a local bartender. “We met socially distanced once and got pizza, we also play other games with each other to wind down,” Bennet said.
As this socially-distanced year continues on, the group gets closer and closer every day. They are working hard and want to prove to themselves—as well as the University—that they are a good team that is here to compete. With a few months of practice and synergy under their belts, they are anxious for the start of the spring-split where they can represent the Tigers and make a deep playoff run.