April 23, 2024 4:19 PM

Yavapai College E-Sports Earns Rocket League Championship

Kevin Lewis has been leading the Yavapai College E-Sports program for a little over two years now, and he’s gearing up to guide the Roughriders into their third official regular season this spring.

After joining in December of 2021, Lewis immediately set to work building the program from scratch. By spring 2022, the E-Sports arena was up and running, albeit with just one student-athlete competing in a single game.

Throughout the 2022-23 season, Lewis expanded the team’s presence, with over 10 student-athletes competing across three games. Their efforts paid off in a remarkable victory at the Hearthstone National Championship in spring 2023. E-Sports continues to grow into the mainstream and has become a major part of online gambling in Asia, with the number of new players and viewership growing exponentially. 

As they enter their third season, Lewis’s squad achieved an unexpected feat in fall 2023. With plans to compete in five games and a roster of over 15 student-athletes, the program adopted a more traditional schedule, using the fall for off-season preparation and the spring for regular competition.

The YC Rocket League team took a unique approach, utilizing the NJCAA E-Sports Open Division during fall 2023 as preparation for the upcoming spring season. Comprising Daniel Lanier, Jericho Nucum, Bishop Rhoads, and Ryan Gardner, the Rocket League squad came together late in the season, but quickly found their stride.

When asked to comment about the season, Lewis said “We didn’t even have a team at the beginning of the semester. We had Daniel and then we added Bishop and then we added Jericho and Ryan around November. Surprisingly, they worked together really well and got hot and just kept winning.”

The makeshift team of Lanier, Nucum, Rhoads, and Gardner entered the playoffs boasting a 6-4 record. They kicked off the 23-team single-elimination tournament with an impressive 4-0 victory against Walters State Community College.

The Roughriders secured another decisive win in the following playoffs round, sweeping one of the Daytona State College teams, propelling them into the semifinals against the University of South Carolina Sumter.

Despite USCS’s formidable 6-1 regular-season record and their status as the No. 2 seed in the tournament, with the favoritism on their side, YC continued their winning streak and advanced to the finals with a 4-2 triumph over USCS.

In the championship match, YC concluded their unexpected journey with a resounding 4-1 victory over Daytona State’s second team, clinching the NJCAA E-Sports Open Division Rocket League Championship.

In the spring of 2024, Lewis and the Roughriders will aim to secure their third championship, further solidifying their program’s impressive legacy.


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