Longhorn Gaming advances to finals in national tournament

Nicole Stuessy

After playing League of Legends for eight years, actuarial science senior David Willis’ dream of playing it on a live stage at a collegiate level tournament will come true in Atlanta on Nov. 17.

Longhorn Gaming’s League of Legends team qualified to compete in the American Video Game League’s Collegiate Series Grand Finals at DreamHack Atlanta. Following a win against defending champions Columbia esports, the team from Columbia College in Missouri, Longhorn Gaming will face the University of Ottawa, Willis said.

UT defeated four teams throughout the tournament, making it to the top two out of 96 teams, Willis said. Each game is best three out of five matches, with each match lasting 25-35 minutes.

Willis said the team’s victory over Columbia esports is like the UT football team defeating Alabama.

“When you start winning, you really don’t expect it, and it doesn’t really sink in until the game’s over,”  Willis said. “We were really excited about the fact that we get to go to a live event, and we qualified there on our own skill.”

While many of the other college teams have esports scholarships and support from their universities, Willis said Longhorn Gaming members play their matches in apartments, dorm rooms and the house of a former member.

“We are still trying to get UT to recognize us an official team or varsity sport,” Willis said. “We try really hard to prove ourselves because we want UT to recognize that this is something that could generate attention and revenue for the school.”

Victor Wattigny, head coach for the Longhorn Gaming League of Legends team, said he coordinates scrimmages and develops game plans to prepare for tournaments.

“Most of the time, we do have a game plan for any opponent we feel we don’t just naturally defeat,” biomedical engineering senior Wattigny said. “If there is game footage available, we do try and watch it.”

Austin Espinoza, Longhorn Gaming creative director, said he plans to travel with the team to Atlanta to document the tournament on video and watch the match.

“It’s been really interesting seeing how the team changes throughout the years and seeing bigger and better teams come and play us,” Asian studies senior Espinoza said. “I was excited when they advanced to Atlanta not only so that I could cheer them on, but so I could share their story.”