From the Soccer Field to the Halcyon Fold: UC Merced leaves its mark on Collegiate Esports

Focus, synergy, teamwork, positioning: University of California, Merced has been accustomed to practicing and developing these skills on the soccer field and their performance in the Collegiate StarLeague Vainglory fall season, in which they finished second, illustrates the team’s success in transitioning these skills to the Halcyon Fold.

UC Merced takes on American River College in the CSL Vainglory Grand Finals.

“Just like in a soccer match, when things aren't going your way and your opponent is just doing a great job in playing, I keep composure and motivate teammates by complimenting them and keeping the hope in the game,“ explained Merced’s Cruz ‘cruz4cross’ Trenado.

“Many professional level esports teams have seen the benefit of physical sports on teamwork and discipline, and Merced’s play is a fantastic illustration of those benefits, but that doesn’t mean the team’s split responsibilities haven’t been a challenge,” he stated.

From left: iniesta8 pictured with Cruz 'cruz4cross' Trenado.

Trenado further elaborated, “Our team is unique in the sense that we have to deal with team workouts, practices, game days, travel days and on our break we sit and play Vainglory on our phones.”

So, where has the motivation to persevere through the heavy workload come from? According to Trenado, the success has certainly helped. “Our thoughts on [our] performance were unexpected. We tried many roster changes, as we didn't practice competitively. We did really well against all our competitors in our level and, by that result, considered going further. In soccer, we are very prideful to a quote that reads: ‘we are not here to take part, we are here to take over!’”

No opponent has been as important to Merced’s quest to take over as the University of Florida. “Our rival [would] very much have to be University of Florida, also known as Scorching Forest,”  revealed Trenado. “This is because they eliminated us in semis during the summer. This time around in the fall season, we faced them again in the semi-finals, but this time with an enormous amount of new experience as we have learned so much. We took the victory in very close back-to-back matches.”

From left: jdel17 and Cruz 'cruz4cross' Trenado.

Trenado believes that experience and growth will likely continue, “The future of UC Merced Vainglory team will definitely expand as we got a vast amount of peers to watch our broadcasted matches. Many were astonished by the prizes rewarded for competing and were interested in joining esports.”

Of course, like every other team this past season, Merced did eventually hit the wall that is American River College. The Sacramento-based squad of pro-level players didn’t leave much hope for any other collegiate team this season, but Merced took their loss in the finals in stride.

“Playing against LiberationX was an honor and helped us [gain] major experience. Although we felt they could have done a lot more damage to every team, we got a good understanding of the synergy and positioning every role [and] character must have.”

The future is bright for these collegiate soccer and Vainglory players. They have the motivation and drive to do great things, and, from what we’ve seen so far, they have the skills as well.

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