The West Virginia Rocket League team finished in the semifinals at the 2023 HUE Invitational in Harrisburg, Penn. (Photo: Michael Carvelli)
by Rob Spewak, WVU Esports
The West Virginia Rocket League team recently competed in the 2023 HUE Invitational in Harrisburg, Penn. Competing against 10 other teams from across the country, the Mountaineers capped the weekend with a semifinal finish after a 3-2 loss to St. Edwards.
WVU earned the No. 1 seed in the playoffs for the tournament after a perfect 10-0 run in pool play. On the first day, West Virginia picked up wins against Converse, Illinois State, St. Edwards, UT Arlington and hosts Harrisburg before beating George Mason, Indian River State, Ole Miss, Maryville and Cumberland on Day 2. Through the 10 matches in pool play, WVU swept four opponents and had a 28-game unbeaten streak that began during its run to a Summer Series championship snapped during its 3-1 win over Illinois State.
Their tournament came to a disappointing end the next day when the Mountaineers fell to the Hilltoppers, 3-2. The semifinal showdown was a rematch of the CCA Summer Series final, which WVU won 4-0.
“It’s a terrible feeling to lose the way we did,” junior Jarret “Angel” Birch said. “To be considered a new powerhouse school, and then take home anything but first is not something we’re proud of. But I’m happy that Tool (sophomore Ryan Futral) and Daunt (freshman Matt Ehresman) were with me attending their first LAN and they got some valuable experience.
“I think next time we just have to focus on figuring out what went wrong and learn from it.”
As West Virginia prepares for CRL and continues regular season play in its other leagues like NACE and NECC, the experience of playing an in-person event that included some of the other top teams in collegiate Rocket League will go down as a valuable experience for the new players on the team as WVU looks to make a return to CRL Worlds this year.
“The first day was really just getting all the jitters out because it was my first in-person event. The last two days I got a lot more comfortable with it and it just started to feel like I was playing online at home,” Tool said. “I also think Angel having experience with LANs already really helped me to stay calm and just get comfortable. It was a great learning
experience for the entire team for LANs in the future and I will definitely be working on improving for the next one.”