Cal CS:GO looks to turn around disastrous season

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While David and Goliath is a characterization used all too commonly in sports, it would not be an inaccurate description of the tasks that lie before Cal’s “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive,” or CS:GO, team. Cal looks to turn around what has so far been a catastrophic season this weekend against one of the nation’s elite esports programs, the Robert Morris University Illinois, or RMU, team, in its first match of the second half of the season.

Prior to its matchup against RMU, Cal has faced a lot of turmoil in both the offseason and the fall. With the restructuring of the Cal esports program came changes in the management and roster of the CS:GO team. With only a single returning player from the previous season, the team has suffered a significant drop in talent, skill and chemistry.

Cal started off the 2017-18 season on the right note, defeating Concordia University. Unfortunately, that win was the only thing that went right for the team in the fall as Cal would go on to lose its next five matches to finish the first half of the season 1-5.

“We just kept losing one-on-one duels,” said team captain Nate “Pineapple_Philips” Jensen. “We had a tough division between UCI and UCLA; their players are insane. We have to work on everything, to say the least. Our team play isn’t great, and our individual skill isn’t amazing either. It really is working to just get everything up; nothing is amazing right now.”

Despite a tumultuous first half, the team’s most difficult obstacle of the entire season lies ahead. The Bears are set to face the RMU Eagles, one of the Goliaths in collegiate eSports.

RMU gained fame by becoming the first university to offer official scholarships for its eSports teams. As a trailblazer in eSports, the Eagles rapidly recruited highly skilled players to build one of the best eSports programs in the country. Unsurprisingly, RMU quickly developed an intimidating reputation.

“We’re trying to prepare psychologically,” Jensen said. “Going in, we don’t want to be mad. We don’t want to tilt.”

Against all odds, the Bears must finish within the top four of their eight-team conference in order to qualify for playoffs. Given the performance the team showed in the fall, it seems unlikely that Cal will manage to win enough games to achieve such a feat. If the Bears fail to qualify for playoffs, they will begin looking toward building a new and upgraded squad for next year’s season.

“We are optimistic,” Jensen said. “We’re hoping to win more, obviously, but we told ourselves from the very beginning that this is going to be a tough season.”

Jensen recognizes that the goal of the current season is not to win, but to build for the future. Looking forward, he hopes to build more awareness for CS:GO within the gaming and mainstream communities at Cal in order to attract a larger pool of talent. In addition, he plans to set up more rigorous practice regimens for the individual players and the team as a whole.

While RMU is a difficult opponent, it is not the biggest mountain that the Cal CS:GO team must climb. Even if Cal loses in a landslide against RMU, it’s an opportunity for the Bears to play against one of the gold standards in collegiate eSports. They will be able to finalize what they need to work on in order to improve. Rather, the true Goliath is whether the team can build a program that will find success for years to come.

While David and Goliath is a characterization used all too commonly in sports, it would not be an inaccurate description of the tasks that lie before Cal’s CS:GO team. Cal looks to turn around what has so far been a catastrophic season this weekend against one of the nation’s elite eSports programs, the Robert Morris University Illinois (RMU) team, in its first match of the second half of the season.

Prior to its matchup against RMU, Cal has faced a lot of turmoil in both the offseason and the fall. With the restructuring of the Cal eSports program came changes in the management and roster of the CS:GO team. With only a single returning player from the previous season, the team has suffered a significant drop in talent, skill and chemistry.

Cal started off the 2017-18 season on the right note, defeating Concordia University. Unfortunately, that win was the only thing that went right for the team in the fall as Cal would go on to lose its next five matches to finish the first half of the season 1-5.

“We just kept losing one-on-one duels,” said team captain Nate “Pineapple_Philips” Jensen. “We had a tough division between UCI and UCLA; their players are insane. We have to work on everything, to say the least. Our team play isn’t great, and our individual skill isn’t amazing either. It really is working to just get everything up; nothing is amazing right now.”

Despite a tumultuous first half, the team’s most difficult obstacle of the entire season lies ahead. The Bears are set to face the RMU Eagles, one of the Goliaths in collegiate eSports.

RMU gained fame by becoming the first university to offer official scholarships for its eSports teams. As a trailblazer in eSports, the Eagles rapidly recruited highly skilled players to build one of the best eSports programs in the country. Unsurprisingly, RMU quickly developed an intimidating reputation.

“We’re trying to prepare psychologically,” Jensen said. “Going in, we don’t want to be mad. We don’t want to tilt.”

Against all odds, the Bears must finish within the top four of their eight-team conference in order to qualify for playoffs. Given the performance the team showed in the fall, it seems unlikely that Cal will manage to win enough games to achieve such a feat. If the Bears fail to qualify for playoffs, they will begin looking toward building a new and upgraded squad for next year’s season.

“We are optimistic,” Jensen said. “We’re hoping to win more, obviously, but we told ourselves from the very beginning that this is going to be a tough season.”

Jensen recognizes that the goal of the current season is not to win, but to build for the future. Looking forward, he hopes to build more awareness for CS:GO within the gaming and mainstream communities at Cal in order to attract a larger pool of talent. In addition, he plans to set up more rigorous practice regimens for the individual players and the team as a whole.

While RMU is a difficult opponent, it is not the biggest mountain that the Cal CS:GO team must climb. Even if Cal loses in a landslide against RMU, it’s an opportunity for the Bears to play against one of the gold standards in collegiate eSports. They will be able to finalize what they need to work on in order to improve. Rather, the true Goliath is whether the team can build a program that will find success for years to come.

Lawrence Zhao covers eSports. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @CelticsWpn