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ICYMI: UMBC’s uLoL team looks to build on last year’s momentum

Heading into the 2016 season, UMBC’s League of Legends team ranked fourth in the country and first in the state. The year before, they did not even qualify for the University League of Legends Championships. This year, however, with the return of both their star players to the lineup, they hope to make a longer run into playoffs.

“The combination of talented freshmen in addition to more experienced and seasoned players returning from last year resulted in an extremely talented team,” said Brandon Nguyen, the team captain for the Division 1 team.

For those unfamiliar, League of Legends is a team-oriented real-time strategy game that pits two teams of five against one another to destroy the opponent’s base, referred to as a nexus in the game. Each player starts at a certain position on the map, running a 1-1-1-2 format. With different objectives to take from the enemy, teams can exert pressure and take or extend their lead. This means that constant communication and interaction with their teammates is essential.

For 2016, the starting roster consisted of Nguyen in the game’s top lane, typically known as the “solo lane,” Brady Sauter in the jungle, Steve Zhou in the middle lane, Brendan Robinson on attack damage carry (ADC), the team’s main damage dealing role and Warren Zhang as support, who lanes with the ADC to aid them in becoming the team’s biggest threat.

“Overall, our macro was our strong point, as well as our individual mechanics. The problem was getting five very talented individuals to play as a team, rather than relying solely on individual talent,” he explains.

The season started on the Jan. 14, which meant Nguyen and company were practicing three nights a week against other top-tier schools like the University of Toronto and Carnegie Mellon University. The regular season consisted of two parts: a group stage and a bracket stage.

In the group stage, teams are sorted into four regions, and within each region they are again sorted into groups of six. Each team plays a best of three against the other teams in their group for five weeks. UMBC’s team went undefeated within their group and were able to cleanly advance to the bracket stage.

Here, only the top two teams from each group are selected to compete for the regional title, playing best of threes until the final stage, where teams play best of fives. Fortunately for UMBC, teams that make it to the bracket stage receive scholarships: $8,000 for first, $4,000 for second, $2,000 for third and fourth and $1,000 for fifth through eighth. While UMBC managed to reach the playoffs, their playoff progress only took them to the 16th of 64 rounds.

Nguyen is pleased though with their results, particularly with the team’s jungler performance and is already looking at next year.

“I would probably have to point out our jungler [Sauter] for being a huge catalyst for our team. He played with a lot of consistency and I’m really looking forward to getting back on track and advancing even further than [last] year.”