By Rilee Stapleton
The University of Missouri shocked the Rocket League scene when they made a run to win the Western division of the Collegiate Rocket League as many people believed teams like LSU, North Texas, and Oregon to be the elite teams out west.
However, the Tigers backed up their first place finish in the west with a third place finish at the CRL finals. Mizzou Esports finished only behind Akron University and Northwood University, the top two squads from the Eastern division.
The first opponent that Mizzou faced in the tournament was Stockton University, who were without starter Brian “Busse” Busse due to a suspension.
The series was very back-and-forth, with Stockton taking a narrow 3-2 overtime win in game one. The Tigers answered with a 5-0 win in game two, but dropped games three and four falling into a 3-1 deficit in the best-of-seven series. Despite the hole they were in, Mizzou was not going to be upset. They rattled off three straight wins, outscoring Stockton 8-4 in the final three games of the series.
They advanced to the second round where they met powerhouse Akron University, led by RLCS pro Tristan “.tristn” Roberts. The Tigers gave the Zips everything they could handle, forcing two overtimes in the first three games, but Akron finished off their sweep of Mizzou with a 5-0 win in game four.
The Tigers dropped down to the losers bracket where they found Northern Virginia, who dropped to the lower bracket in the first round after a loss to North Texas. They bounced back with a win over UT- Dallas and had momentum going into their matchup with Mizzou.
That momentum led to NOVA taking the first two games of the series, but they sputtered out shortly after. Mizzou held them scoreless for three straight games and took game six with a 2-1 win to advance to round three.
At this point, only four teams remained. Akron and Northwood would meet in the upper bracket while Mizzou and LSU would battle in the lower. Both of those series played out in similar ways. Northwood took care of Akron in four games, and Mizzou beat LSU just as quickly.
This set up a rematch between Mizzou and Akron, with the winner advancing to the finals with Northwood. Mizzou did their best to keep up, but Akron once again proved to be too much for the top seed out of the Western division. The Zips swept the Tigers and found themselves in the finals with the Northwood Timberwolves, who eventually took care of Akron and won their first CRL Finals.
This Mizzou roster of Riley “Choxic” Putnam, Tristan “Nitrovity” Bennett, and Christian “Crimz” VanMeter exceeded all of the expectations put upon them. They finished the season as the best in the west in CRL while also taking home second place in the Maui Esports Invitational, which was nationally televised on ESPN2.
Mizzou Esports will look to carry this momentum into the spring season of CRL, which will kickoff a few months from now.