Cal’s ‘Counter-Strike’ season comes to a premature and disappointing end

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Batman vs. Superman, Michael Jordan’s run on the Wizards, my virginity and Cal’s “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive,” or CSGO, postseason. What do all these things have in common? They all started with optimism and ended with bitter disappointment.

For all intents and purposes, the Bears had every reason to be hopeful. A dominating 16-4 victory over Northern Kentucky University sealed their entry into the playoffs, and a boot camp at NVIDIA headquarters had helped the team bond and establish better chemistry. To paraphrase an infamous J.R. Smith quote, Cal had “a f—-n squad now.”

“Boot camp was a lot of fun — we practiced, got a couple scrims in and developed as a team,” said captain Nate “Pineapple_Philips” Jensen.

But their first-round matchup against Virginia Tech, a “Counter-Strike” behemoth that boasts a 13-3 record in the E-Sports Electronic Entertainment Association’s semi-professional intermediate division, sent the Bears reeling back to reality. Starting on Inferno, the Bears kept afloat with a 6-9 Counter Terrorist half and looked to at least make the game competitive.

But as the teams changed sides, so did the momentum — the Hokies won seven of eight rounds and finished the game 16-7.

“The team was simply a lot better than us,” Jensen said.

Cal’s struggle on the Terrorist side continued into Mirage where the team won one of the first 15 rounds yet ultimately lost the game 16-1.

As to why the team struggled so much, Jensen said: “There was a lack of coordination, naivety about maps — that leads to a lot of ‘two for ones.’ ”

While the loss to Virginia Tech was disappointing for the Bears, the worst was yet to come, as they lost to Kansas State 16-13 in the lower bracket to end Cal’s run in the Collegiate Starleague playoffs. Once again, a poor Terrorist side performance inhibited the Bears, as they only managed to win one round of the final 10.

For Jensen, the only returning player from last year’s roster, the results are dismaying. “I’m disappointed, but the players shouldn’t be. This is a building year — but we told ourselves last year that it was a building year.”

While this loss marks the end of Cal’s formal regular season, the Bears will still participate in the UCSD LAN qualifier and might participate in various external tournaments.

As to what he hopes will change in the future, the team captain expressed cautious hope: “We know what we need to do now, and hopefully, there will be better practice times and demo reviews as a team.”

Michael Brust covers esports. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBesports.