Cal League of Legends closed its best season yet last weekend in Los Angeles. The team flew down to play in the last matches of the Pacific Esports League, or PAC-E, League of Legends Invitational, hosted by UCLA Esports.
In mid-April, teams from each Pac-12 school fought through the group stage, with the top four — Cal, Arizona State, UCLA and Utah — qualifying for the LAN portion on May 4 and 5.
The Bears placed second overall with a record of 8-3, earning all three defeats in the final against ASU (10-1), the first-place winner.
For the graduating seniors on the team, mid laner Aaron “isthatthem” Olguin and support Robert “Roflcopter” Lemons, it was their last competitive League of Legends series.
Although PAC-E ended on a loss for Cal, the two seniors expressed the pride that they felt in the team’s 2019 accomplishments, particularly within the official College League of Legends circuit. The current roster brought the Bears to the playoffs of the regional collegiate championship for the first time since 2017.
“This was our most successful year; I’m glad we ended on this. I’m sure the roster will live on. Half of the team is very young, so I’m sure everything will be fine. Overall, I’m pretty satisfied.” Lemons said.
Olguin agreed that Cal League of Legends can only go up from here, citing an improved environment for its players.
“I think, in comparison to last year, we were actually a team. Last year, we were just a bunch of random people that had no cohesion, and I’m pretty proud of what we had today,” Olguin said. “The esports investment that we have at Berkeley now is really promoting more of a team environment. I’m looking forward to Berkeley’s esports scene (developing further).”
Day 1: Cal 2, Utah 0 in best-of-three semifinals match
As the first seed of the North Division, Cal was matched against the University of Utah (the South Division’s second seed) in the semifinals. The series was relatively one-sided; Cal took the lead within the first 10 minutes of each match, and the Bears’ clean play across the board showed off the best of their teamfighting skills.
“It was honestly pretty easy. I think everyone on our team played better than (everyone on) theirs, and they did exactly what we thought they were going to do, so it wasn’t a hard set,” Lemons said.
In the second semifinals match of the day, ASU finished 2-0 against UCLA to advance to the finals against the Bears.
As longtime opponents in the West Conference of the College League of Legends tournament and occasional scrim partners, both the Bears and ASU were looking forward to day two.
“ASU is actually the team that eliminated us from the preseason tournament earlier this year, and I’m ready to get some revenge for that,” Olguin said.
“That’s scary,” said ASU’s jungler Mason “Hi im baekho” Choe. “I’m pretty sure Cal knows a bit more than other teams about (our win condition), so they’ll probably capitalize well. And I respect (Cal jungler) ‘eXyu’ a lot — our team always compliments him because he’s so good in solo queue. I have to watch out for him, so it’s going to be fun.”
Day 2: Arizona State University 3, Cal 1 in best-of-five finals match
ASU handily beat Cal, 3-1, out-macroing the Bears to seize control of the map and snowball games into victories.
Cal pulled out some unique picks, such as a Neeko bot in game one and a highly successful Kindred jungle with Zilean mid in game three, but couldn’t quite make the drafts work. A dominant Karthus performance from Choe sealed the deal for ASU in game four.
“We got a little too hyphy. I think we were trying to pick for comfort instead of running back the (Kindred-Zilean) draft we slammed on in (game three),” said coach Ethan “CaptainHammie” Levy. “Everyone had strong ideas about what they wanted to pick individually, but as a team, it didn’t mesh too well.”
Like the Cal seniors, ASU marksman Alejandro “Snoopsss” Espinosa has high hopes for his own team’s future.
“If you’re supporting us, keep supporting us, because we’re only improving,” Espinosa said. “I hope we can come here again next year.”