The 2018 season has come to an end, and unlike almost every prediction out there, the title is headed to California. The University of California, Irvine beat the Columbia College (MO) Cougars 3-0 in the final series to pump the brakes on the American Midwest's collegiate esports surge. However, that wasn't even the wildest part of Title Week...the last gasp of the Elite Eight was filled with surprises, drama, and struggle before the 2018 champs were crowned.
The first two days of the championships were the quarterfinals, and they brought both the unpredictable and the status quo.
The first day was a roller coaster of emotions as we saw the defending champions, Maryville University (#1), get knocked out by underdogs University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (#8) in a very decisive 2-0. Last year’s champs weren’t in any sort of fighting shape, even with the 2017 championship MVP jungler, Walrus, in the starting lineup. Illinois went in with low expectations, after being on the losing end of a series of scrims leading up to the tournament, but that didn’t dampen their spirits. They outplayed MU at every turn. The pressure became too much for Maryville to handle and before you know it, they were out of the tournament - guaranteeing a new Collegiate League of Legends champion.
The next two sets went about as expected, as Columbia College (MO) (#5) took down University of Texas, Dallas (#4), and University of California, Irvine (#2) knocked out University of Ottawa (#7) with a notable pentakill to cap off the evening for Lattman. However, the big question mark for the quarterfinals would be who would take on UCI in the semis. It was between returning Big Ten contenders Maryland University (#6) and first timer title finalists Western Ontario (#3). Both seemed to be evenly matched, but it was Maryland who threw Western off with their off-meta top lane picks like Nunu and Morgana. The surprise factor was enough to solidify both Big Ten teams as semifinalists - an outcome that few predicted.
With both Big Ten teams coming into the tournament as underdogs, their fight from down under was amplified when they got to the semifinals. Unfortunately, neither of them could overcome the power of the established forces that were Columbia College and UC Irvine.
CC made quick work of Illinois, not allowing them the chance to get the upper hand like they had in their quarterfinal matches against MU. The Cougars’ focused on the macro game and kept up the methodical takedown for three games straight, securing their place in the finals.
Irvine looked to be on the same course, picking apart Maryland with ease and securing games 1 and 2. Up to this point, Maryland had played a standard meta. What brought them to the semi dance was their odd top lane picks and “solo queue friends night” play style. They were back to that form in Game 3, which shocked UCI with the picks of Yasuo, Lee Sin, Ryze, Draven, and Brand. This time, though, the surprise factor would only work once, as UCI adapted in Game 4 and shut them down, moving on to face the Cougars in the finals.
With the stage set and free In-N-Out lunch provided by Riot, the raucous UCI majority crowd was ready to see their team close out the weekend and bring home the fourth College League of Legends championship.
It turned out to be a quick afternoon, as Irvine had scouted their opponents and had an answer for every move Columbia made. Stumpey, Julien, and BukZach were the primary targets, with Lattman and Bloodwater staying even with Evan and Dean, refusing to let him get out of control during laning phase.
UCI made the coordinated tower dives and rotations look easy. With every play Columbia made in their own favor, they gave up something in return, and the pressure built to the point of collapse, giving the victory and the championship to University of California, Irvine. Descraton, UCI’s mid laner, easily earned the MVP in the quick 3-0 due to his dominant performance on Swain for game 1 and Zoe for games 2 and 3.
Irvine deserved this one because they worked the hardest for it. Every team had their fair share of ups and downs, but Irvine persevered and triumphed over all others. From my understanding, the International College Cup will be getting underway soon, and I can’t think of a better team to represent North America this year than UC Irvine. Congratulations to the new College League of Legends champions on their outstanding performance and good luck on the international stage!
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Joshua "Pheqes" Quest is a League of Legends caster for Collegiate StarLeague. He enjoys Snapchat, memeing on Twitter, and crushing the Content Team at Pokken.