Mizzou Esports flourishes in inaugural year

2 months 2 weeks 12 hours ago Friday, December 13 2019 Dec 13, 2019 Friday, December 13, 2019 5:26:33 PM CST December 13, 2019 in Sports
By: Garrett Tiehes, KOMU 8 Sports Reporter

COLUMBIA - In just one season, the University of Missouri's Esports team has accomplished things no one thought they could do.

It was in 2018, when the university announced the launching of this new sports program. 

Missouri Esports Head Coach, Kevin Reape, said this has been a long time coming.

"When Mizzou was looking at initiatives that we could add that would attract the next generation of college student and get current students excited about something, Esports kept coming up," he said.

The Esports team consists of 21 scholarship students.

Those students make up three teams that compete in Rocket League, Overwatch and League of Legions.

As the first SEC school and only the third power five school to have a team, no one knew the challenges or how the inaugural year would unfold.

"It's extremely challenging to build a program up like this from the ground up. Theres not a lot of schools at the size or stature of Mizzou that have done this so that is a challenge because there's not a lot of schools, not a lot of we can ask for advice," Reape said. 

Player Development and League of Legions coach, Josh Raub, said it's more than just starting a team.

"Trying to get everyone to understand each other as a player and work together in a way that helps us win, a lot of these players haven't played on a team before," Raub said. 

The Overwatch team had some of the same problems according to player Jackson Vickers.

"We've already had and worked through issues with staying motivated and wanting to push forward and really making sure that 'ya, we want to stick with this, we want to go through,'" Vickers said. 
According to Rocket League Player Riley Putnam there has also been problems outside of internal team issues.
"We found trouble to find coaches and other teams to scrimmage against because we don't have much respect as other colleges," Putnam said.
In their quest for respect, the team has flourished in their first year.
The League of Legions team has traveled all over competing against other schools, the Overwatch team was one of twelve teams in the country to be invited to a varsity invitational, and the Rocket League team finished undefeated beating Aquinas in the NACE Rocket League Championship.
"It's very exciting because we weren't sure how we were going to play, we never played with each other before this and we've been happy to actually be very competitive and have a lot of chemistry as a team," Putnam said.
Now, after finishing a remarkable first year the team has something to look back on and continue to build on for future years to come. 
"I couldn't be more proud of the group we have, I told them all when they first got here, the very first day, they were chosen not just because they're good at the games they play but I thought that they embodied what the university of Missouri was about, and that they would be willing to put in the work to develop  program from the ground up," Reape said.
"I'm just looking forward to us constantly showing up top 3, top 4, top 8 whatever and people going Mizzou is really doing some good stuff over there,'" Vickers said.
In the future, the team looks to develop a broadcasting division along with a marketing team, both of which will but ran by students.

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