COD eSports Crescendos to Victory in National Tournament

After winning first place at last week’s tournament, COD’s eSports team reflected on how stronger team chemistry and practicing at an official gaming center strengthened their team.


Team First Light: (left to right) Joshua Zamora, Mark Zhdan, Jimmy Vu, and Hubert Mazur, with Aditya Asher being held. Picture taken by Cesar Hernandez.

Sarah Kueking, Managing Editor

The College of DuPage esports team is taking off after winning first place at last week’s Grand Finals national tournament. 

Just like other sports teams at the college, the eSports team battled for their chance at a national title all semester. The National Junior College Athletic Association eSports (NJCAAe) tournament consisted of 12 games and a preseason, with each game lasting one week. When the season started for the spring, around 30 other community colleges were participating.

Then came the playoffs.

“Once playoffs hit, then only 13 teams qualified,” Ethan Nguyen, one of the eSports team managers, explained. “So the playoffs took about a week, and it narrowed down to College of DuPage versus the Alvin Dolphins, which is a community college that [is] based in Texas.”

The match against the Dolphins occurred April 21. The teams played Valorant. 

Valorant, a computer game, is a 5v5 character-based tactical first-person shooter where one team attacks and the opposing side defends. The offensive team aims to plant a bomb in a certain area and make sure it detonates, while the defensive side tries to prevent that from happening. Regardless of the status of the bomb, if an entire team is killed, the opposing side wins the round.

At the beginning of each round, players choose a character, or agent, to play. Each agent has its own unique abilities,

Picture provided by the NJCAAe.

and the combination of those abilities is vital to the team’s success. Every match has 25 rounds, with each round lasting 100 seconds. The first team that wins 13 rounds wins the entire match.

After adding up the scores for all three matches on April 21, COD beat the Alvin Dolphins 39 to 13 with COD being the first to reach 13 points and win every game.

According to Aditya Asher, a member of COD’s varsity Valorant team, Team First Light, the Alvin Dolphins initially seemed a formidable opponent.

“I was super nervous for the first time,” Asher admitted. “We didn’t really know what we were getting into, replaying against these teams. Especially the Alvin Dolphins. We actually lost to them before. But I knew my team had my back there. So we were good.”

Joshua Zamora, another member of Team First Light, agreed with Asher in that he was also nervous.

“We didn’t know what we were expecting,” Zamora said. “But after we got the first win in the quarterfinals, we were confident for the rest of the way out.”

The team was ecstatic after winning the national title.

“It felt really good to win the Grand Finals in the tournament against the Alvin Dolphins,” Zamora said. “And, like Asher said before, we lost to the Alvin Dolphins in the regular season, so it felt so good to beat them. Especially in a dominating fashion like we did.”

“There was no competition,” Asher added. “It was a great time.”

According to Nguyen, Zamora and Asher meant that the Alvin Dolphins’ scores were nowhere near COD’s. 

When considering what the team did differently in order to take home the title of NJCAAe national champions, Asher explained the main new strategy they employed was playing in the same room as their fellow teammates.

Photo taken by Cesar Hernandez.

“I think the most important thing that we did was we went to a location and [played] together,” Asher said. “Usually, we’re all at home playing from our own devices. But we went to [the gaming centers] Belong and Scrims where they had five PCs right next to each other [and everyone was] right next to each other, hyping each other up. So it was super cool stuff, seeing my teammates play in real time as we were winning and losing.”

According to Zamora, other than playing in close physical proximity, not too much was done differently. However, practice was key for the confidence and chemistry that led to Team First Light’s victory.

Although bringing home the national title is quite the accomplishment, members of the eSports team, especially within Team First Light, have also built a sense of camaraderie amongst one another.

“Before this eSports thing, I didn’t really know my teammates,” Asher said. “And after, I feel like this is such a good community and friends that I’ve made where we’ve hung out so many times together, that I’m actually constantly calling them friends.”

Zamora added that the team has also grown in terms of performance, which he observed as the tournament progressed.

“Halfway through the season, we had a roster change. And we weren’t performing too well before then,” Zamora explained. “But once we got two new players on the team, and we practiced for a couple of months, we beat the teams we lost to before in a dominating fashion.”

The eSports team started off much smaller than it is today. According to Asher, before the eSports team existed, there was a Valorant Discord server just for COD that had around 10 people. Then, one of the leaders of the group sent out a message that they were starting an eSports group.

On the other hand, Zamora heard about the potential of an eSports team through word-of-mouth.

“I found out from a friend in class,” Zamora explained. “It was before the eSports Discord was set up and before everything was set up. She told me about the potential of COD starting an eSports club. And there was a small group chat with this girl named Brenda, Ethan, Cesar and a couple others. I was there early right before it started.”

Nguyen added that Zamora took on an organizer role. Once Nguyen, Zamora and the others in the group found the right professors, they were able to create their Discord server and get the eSports team up and running.

Although each player joined the eSports team for different reasons, many of them united over their lifelong interest in video games.

“I’ve always had a passion for gaming, especially playing competitive video games,” Zamora said. “So when I heard about this opportunity, I didn’t take any chance to wait. I just jumped on board. And when I heard [COD was] creating a Valorant team, that’s the game I was playing mostly, [so] I was eager to join that.”

For Asher, Valorant was a new kind of video game for him to play. Having a group of players playing together was what drew him in.

“This was the first shooter or mouse and keyboard game I played, and to see there be an actual community of people that were actually playing it was pretty cool,” Asher said. “And it was crazy how many people there were and how big [the group] got so quickly.”

Cesar Hernandez, one of the founders of the eSports team, explained that the team was meant to be a way for students to connect over something they were passionate about, like video games. Then, the leaders pushed that passion into something more competitive, as other schools have done.

Nguyen agreed with Hernandez that the eSports team was meant to allow students to connect with one another.

Photo taken by Cesar Hernandez.

“When I first showed up to COD, I think, right off the bat, I knew there was one thing missing. And that was the student life and community aspect of this community college,” Nguyen said. “It just felt super lonely if you [didn’t] know people that [were] on this campus. So, when I had that small group of friends, we sat down [and decided] that it would be cool to start an eSports team.”

The sense of community Nguyen desired was a huge part of his vision and inspiration for the eSports team.

“When I started this club, I had the vision that maybe one day, everyone’s going to connect together, watch parties are going to happen, teams, maybe have some sort of dedicated space for teams to compete,” Nguyen continued. “I started up really strong, made sure our name was heard, got some movement going. And that’s where we’re at today. We have teams going on and competing, broadcasting. And eventually, one of our teams won nationals. So that’s gonna leave a huge impact on COD for sure.”

The eSports team tries to practice at least twice a week, but sometimes it varies depending on team members’ schedules.

Although the eSports team is done with the intramural league for the semester, they had another tournament on Saturday, May 6. It was a third-party tournament hosted by Belong Gaming Arena open to all teams. However, most of the other teams were semi-pro or at the top of the league. COD’s team tried their hardest but did not make it to the second day of the tournament.

For the fall semester, COD’s eSports team is open to new players, whether amateur or professional, as well as audience members. If you would like to learn more, join the COD eSports Discord here.