Championship Bound: The Return to Glory


by | May 16, 2019, 11:00AM PDT

With the conclusion of the Group Stage, UCI Esports’ varsity League of Legends (LoL) team—the defending national champions—is moving onto the live finals in Los Angeles, CA for the second consecutive year!

The 2019 West Conference semifinal match against Cal (UC Berkeley) could have been a thrilling match to watch, but unfortunately a family emergency for one of their starting players forced the team to forfeit for failing to field a full roster. (Wish our sister campus luck in the Pacific Esports (PAC-E) League of Legends Invitational, hosted by UCLA Esports!) The final match against Cal Poly Pomona resulted in another UCI win, taking the top spot in the West conference.

As the West is one of the top four conferences, we receive an auto-berth into the College Championship where eight teams will play a three-round single elimination tournament. The first round is best-of-three and all other rounds are best-of-five. So a UCI repeat championship could entail as few as eight more matches, or as many as thirteen!

Maryville University, University of Ontario, and University of Illinois also won their conferences and joined us in the auto-berths. University of Waterloo, Michigan State University, Columbia College, and North Carolina State University battled their way through the remaining teams to complete the “great eight” of the Championship Finals. (You can see the Round 1 brackets here.)

Our Round 1 bout will be an intensely noteworthy rematch against Columbia College, our grand final match opponents from last year whom we defeated 3-0 to become the 2018 League of Legends College Champions. Tune in to catch our quarterfinals match on Friday, May 24th at 6pm Pacific Time on Riot’s Twitch channel.

Once again, your 2018-2019 UCI LoL varsity team is:

Evan “Captain Nuke” Phu (Top Laner),
Avi “Im Avi” Behar (Jungle),
Jeffrey “Descraton” Du (Mid Laner),
Youngbin “Youngbin” Chung (Bot Laner)
Lyubomir “BloodWater” Spasov (Support),
and Ethan “Kim Down” Song (Support, Substitute).

We must not forget the amazing support staff behind the team:

James “Coachman” Bates (Head Coach),
James “Lattman” Lattman (Assistant Coach),
Allison “Shoogle” Le (Team Manager),
Milo “PhDodson” Dodson (Team Psychologist),
Haylesh “Haylo” Patel (Team Physiologist),
and Hillary “Hillabeans” Phan (Player Support Coordinator).

Don’t forget to tune in May 23rd – May 26th for the College Championship matches!

Follow UCIEsports and College League of Legends on Twitter for updates.

Update: Riot recently posted an official announcement and information page with the schedule of matches.

UCI Esports Unveils Partnership with Vite Ramen


by | Feb 12, 2020, 8:00AM PDT

For most of our scholarship players, performing well is as much a physical game as it is a mental one. Just ask Haylesh Patel, their personal trainer, who keeps them in tip-top shape during the competitive season as part of our esports fitness program. 

For all Patel’s guidance, however, it’s easy for our players to fall prey to the vice that that ensnares millions of college students worldwide: Poor nutritional choices. 

Chief among those choices? Consuming instant noodles. With nearly one-thousand milligrams of salt per serving, and only trace amounts of protein, the typical cup of microwave ramen is a case study in empty calories. While safe to eat in moderation, most name-brand noodles fail to provide the nutrients most essential to top performance. 

Enter Vite Ramen. The startup, headed by power duo Tim and Tom Zheng—twins with a knack for wholesome, tasty food—offers a variety of nutrient-packed noodles that put a light spin on traditional instant ramen. Instead of the salt and fat you’ll find in store-bought varieties, Vite noodles rely on a blend of herbs and spices to bring out their signature flavor. In addition, they pack a whopping 25 grams of protein per serving, more than half the FDA’s recommended daily value. In short, Vite’s noodles are a nutritional powerhouse—the Soylent of ramen, some might say. 

Vite Ramen comes in three flavors: Vegan Miso, Soy Sauce Chicken, and Garlic Pork. 

As gamers themselves, Tim and Tom understand how difficult it is to make good nutritional choices when pressed for time. Indeed, their decision to found Vite Ramen was driven in part by a desire to save fellow gamers the trouble of having to pick between playing consistently and eating well.

“One of the things … that influenced us to make this ramen [was] just esports in general,” Tim elaborated in a video interview published on Vite Ramen’s website. “We wanted to eat good food that helped us play better.” A simple motive, but undeniably genuine.

Tim and Tom Zheng, right and left, respectively, founded Vite Ramen to fill a niche that left much to be desired in their undergraduate years: Quick, yet healthy, meals for student gamers to eat on-the-go.

As our newest sponsor, Vite Ramen will supply our scholarship teams with the healthy, filling food they need to fuel their best performance. They’ll also provision us with top-of-the-line cooking equipment so our players can make authentic noodles without leaving their practice stations at the UCI Esports Arena.

“We believe that everything you eat should have everything you need,” said James Vuong, outreach coordinator at Vite Ramen. “We made these noodles to give players a healthy, nutritious meal in the shortest amount of time possible so they can get back to practicing, get back to scrimming—get back to performing at 120%.”

On The Scene at NASEF’s 2020 High School Overwatch Finals


by | Jan 29, 2020, 12:00PM PDT

Last Saturday, January 18th, 2020, students from four high schools across the United States met in Orange County’s Esports Arena to compete in NASEF’s 2020 High School Scholastic Overwatch Finals. 

The one-day tournament concluded NASEF’s Fall Overwatch season, which began in September. NASEF has sponsored the competition for two years running, and with more than 100 teams participating in 2019–up from 46 the year prior—it’s proven a great success. 

This season, four regional brackets competed for a spot in the finals, pitting school against school in eight weeks of constructive competition. Teams across the nation, vying for the title of NASEF’s 2019-2020 High School Scholastic Overwatch Champions, dedicated countless hours of practice to honing their game—developing teamwork, management, and communication skills along the way.

And for four teams from Naperville North, Portola, Xavier, and Rocklin high schools, those hours paid off with a trip to the national finals. 

Parents, coaches, and fellow competitors spectate a match between Naperville North and Xavier High at the Orange County Esports Arena. All images courtesy of NASEF. 

Although two of the finalist schools—Rocklin and Portola—are local to California, the teams representing Naperville North and Xavier high schools caught flights from the East Coast to attend the event.

“It’s a whole ‘nother ball game when you get to something like this,” said Chris Neumann, Naperville North’s team captain, in regard to his team’s weekend in Irvine, which included a tour of Blizzard Entertainment’s headquarters the Friday prior to the finals. “Once we joined this national team, started winning our division, started coming here—once this happened, our school got tons of people from inside and outside our [NASEF] club to join up in the school and watch us play … I think it’s cool how something like this can provide such a wide-reaching effect.” 


The tournament’s first match, scheduled for 10 AM, put Portola and Rocklin in a best-of-five set on the maps Dorado, King’s Row, and Lijiang Tower. Rocklin took the match with a score of 3-0, in no small part due to its captain, Dash’s, unrelenting offense with Genji, McCree, and Pharah. 

Dash, of Rocklin High’s Thunder Esports, netted 50 eliminations and participated in 70% of his teams’ kills in the second round of their match against Portola High.

After a short break, Naperville and Xavier’s match, which would determine Rocklin’s opponent in the grand finals, began. The series was played with the same map order as that of Portola and Rocklin, and ended similarly one-sided, with a final score of 3-0 favoring Naperville. Without a doubt, the team’s star player was its DPS Hanzo, Found, whose clean play and consistent headshots overwhelmed the competition.

“I’m feeling pretty confident [about the upcoming match against Rocklin], but also nervous,” Found said in an interview following the semis. “The other teams here are very good and they’ve earned their place, so good luck to them.”

Parents of Naperville North’s players flew in from Illinois to support the team in its matches against Xavier and Rocklin High School. Behind them, Naperville’s head coach, Chris Terpstra (pictured mid-right), rallies his players from the sidelines. 

With both preliminary matches decided, only one series remained between the teams left standing and NASEF’s championship title. With friends, parents, and coaches cheering from the sidelines, Rocklin and Naperville North’s players took to the stage, settling in for the best-of-five set on Dorado, Eichenwalde, and Busan.

As might be expected, the match was more balanced than its predecessors, with no star players emerging to steal the show as Dash and Found had earlier. The play, while not conservative, was more measured than usual, with Dash taking the Mei and exchanging blows with Naperville’s Yaressi, playing Doomfist. While their competition raged, the teams’ other DPSs, Leonin and Found, came into the spotlight, fostering broad, team-based strategies on both sides.

In the end, after a close match in Busan, the set’s final map, Rocklin emerged victorious with a closing score of 3-0. They celebrated their victory in an awards ceremony after the match, receiving medals, a trophy for their school, and recognition as NASEF’s 2020 High School Scholastic Overwatch champions.

Thunder Esports, of Rocklin High School, poses with Samantha Anton, NASEF’s COO, and Mark Deppe, its commissioner, after taking the 2020 OW High School Scholastic championship.

“NASEF is really proud to support the growth of scholastic esports, and giving students the opportunity to come out to California with their parents and teachers to be a part of something bigger than themselves has been incredibly rewarding,” Samantha Anton, NASEF’s COO, said of the fall OW season. “A huge congratulations to all the clubs that participated in this year’s high school scholastic tournament—we’re excited to see you at the next one!”

UCI Esports Welcomes the 2019-2020 Academic Year with Our Annual Fall Kickoff


by | Oct 4, 2019, 8:00PM PDT

Last Friday, UCI Esports ushered in the 2019-2020 academic year with our annual Fall Kickoff, inviting several hundred new and continuing students to the UCI Esports Arena from 4-8 PM for an evening of games, giveaways, and good old fashioned fun.

As part of Welcome Week, Fall Kickoff aims to introduce the student community to UCI’s esports program, which has grown in recent years to encompass three scholarship teams, more than half a dozen student-run clubs, and a multi-thousand-dollar gaming setup in the UCI Esports Arena. 

“We see Fall Kickoff as a way to welcome everyone (back) to the Arena,” said Kathy Chiang, UCI Esports’ assistant director. “By showcasing what we have to offer—our PCs, our clubs, and our teams—we can hopefully encourage more students to come back during the school year to learn more about our program or get involved.”

Students lined up to join Fall Kickoff’s main raffle, whose prizes included Logitech gaming mice, keyboards, and speakers. The grand prize was a graphics card from NVIDIA and solid state hard drive from Western Digital. iBUYPOWER and The Association of Gamers at UCI held similar raffles at the far end of the patio.

Well before 4 PM, students had grouped up around tables outside the UCI Esports Arena, armed to the teeth with consoles, controllers, and extension cords. While most of the players had ventured outside to practice Smash Melee, one group played FIFA on a flat-screen TV, leaping to their feet at intervals to celebrate—or bemoan—pivotal moments ingame.


Indoors, the scene was no less lively. From wall to wall, students packed the Arena, weaving between rows of softly-humming computers to spectate the day’s events, which ranged from free-for-all play in Teamfight Tactics to structured tournaments in League of Legends, Overwatch, and Rainbow Six Siege. On either side of the room, volunteers dispensed cans of Mountain Dew Amp Game Fuel, free of charge, to visitors in need of a boost.

As might be expected, scholarship players—denoted by the white anteater sown onto the arm of their jerseys—participated in the tournaments, providing other players a worthwhile challenge as they clashed in teams of five (or six in Overwatch). Though the tournaments had no official prize pool, participants who stuck through to the final round received goodie bags as a show of appreciation for their diligence.

Jeffrey Du, one of our scholarship players, competed against fellow students in League of Legends from 4-6 PM.

All said, the event was a great success, drawing hundreds of students together in a show of community spirit that, with any luck, will continue to shine throughout the academic year.

To all of our attendees and sponsors, thank you—Your support is what makes our programs truly special.

Tryouts for our Scholarship League of Legends Teams Are On–But Only Until October 8th


by | Sep 26, 2019, 8:00PM PDT

The month of September marks an especially busy time for Allison Le. Between prepping for fall quarter classes and settling into life as a senior in the School of Physical Sciences, she’s got a lot on her plate–but, as UCI Esports’ League of Legends Team Manager, her work doesn’t end there. Indeed, for the last three weeks, Allison has been sifting through applications for one of ten spots on UCI Esports’ scholarship League of Legends teams, working closely with coaches David Tu and Geoff Wang to find top talent for both varsity and JV positions.

Although the application period for spots on our League of Legends teams opened on September 3rd, Le encourages students to apply until the October 8th deadline. Following that date, the most qualified candidates–as determined by Tu, Wang, and a host of junior analysts-will be asked to attend live tryouts at the UCI Esports Arena, where their skills will be put to the test in real time.

The first stage of the application process, conducted entirely online, consists of a short interest form requesting applicants’ rank, champion pool, and preferred team position. It might seem sparse, but this information gives the recruitment team an idea of players’ standing ingame and allows them to determine which open roles each might best fill. 

During live tryouts, which start mid-October, applicants will be sorted into groups and pitted against other collegiate teams in matchups resembling those of the College League of Legends (CLoL) series. As they play, Tu and Wang will watch from the sidelines, noting each player’s quirks, proficiencies, and–inevitably–the areas in which they stand to improve. 

By day’s end, they’ll have made their decisions.


Of the applicants sent through to live trials, only ten will land a spot on a scholarship team, with five slotted for varsity and five for JV. Those selected for varsity positions will receive up to $6,000 in scholarship aid for the 2019-2020 academic year, while those who qualify for JV positions will receive up to $1,000. 

In addition to financial aid, scholarship players gain access to a variety of personal and academic wellness programs courtesy of UCI Esports, including biweekly meetings with a team psychologist, advice from professional esports coaches, and one-on-one training from exercise physiologist Haylesh Patel.

Also up for grabs–cool trophies.

With live tryouts two and a half weeks away, there’s still time to apply for a spot on one of our League of Legends teams–but not much. If you have a knack for gaming, and are at all interested in joining our esports family, take two minutes to complete an online application. It might just change your life.

UCI’s Super Smash Brothers Club Shines at CSL’s National Finals in Worcester


by | Aug 29, 2019, 2:30PM PDT

This time last week, members of UC Irvine’s Super Smash Brothers club, Smash at UCI, were 35,000 feet above the ground, traveling by plane to Worcester, Massachusetts, to participate in Boston’s largest esports festival.

The festival, dubbed Shine, is event planner Big Blue Esports’ most popular program, attracting 3,000 players to Worcester each year and netting more than a quarter of a million unique online viewers across three days of competition.

In addition to Shine’s spotlight events—tournaments in Melee, Ultimate, 64, and Brawlhalla—the Collegiate Star League (CSL) held its US Smash finals for four teams representing universities across the country.

With a prize pool of $15,000, the stakes were high—but nothing the members of Smash at UCI hadn’t seen before. As second-time qualifiers for the collegiate finals (they’d taken second place in 2018), the team was looking forward to bringing Shine another stellar performance.

“We had competed last year and really enjoyed it,” said Rafael Guadron, team captain and one of two players in Smash at UCI sponsored by Carnage Gaming, “so it only made sense to compete again.”

In preparation for their trip to Worcester, the members of Smash at UCI trained rigorously, attending tournaments throughout SoCal and practicing in mock tourneys at each other’s houses.

“We strive to do more and become more than before,” Guadron said, referencing the team’s motivation to train as hard as they did for Shine. “We of course love watching the top players of the world succeed, but what makes us inspired to improve are our own achievements.”

The team’s first match was against the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT), whom they beat 3-0 to advance from semis to winners finals. Despite the match’s intensity, Guadron and his teammates kept level heads:

“While competing, we focused on the task at hand and tried to beat every opponent we came across. At times when we were in a deficit, it was hard to not think about it, but we have dealt with such things before, so it was nothing new.”

In the winner’s finals, UCI faced off against UT Dallas (UTD), dropping into the losers bracket after a tough set that ended 0-2. Down—but not out—the team brought their best game to the losers finals, and came out on top with a score of 2-0 against NJIT.

After nearly three hours of competition, Guadron and his teammates had earned the chance to compete, once more, against UTD—only this time, $6,000 was on the line.


One might describe the grand finals that followed as intense, but that would be selling them short. Having battled their way out from losers, UCI stood in ample position to reset the bracket and take the collegiate title. All they needed to do was beat UTD twice consecutively.

A challenge, to be sure, but not impossible.

In the hours that followed, Guadron and his team fought harder than they ever had before, recognizing the stakes but not permitting pressure to break their stride. And their efforts paid off: They beat UTD 2-0, resetting the bracket and pushing the tournament into one, final round.

After a thrilling 15-stock bout that ended 4-0 in favor of UTD, Guadron and his teammates walked away with another second-place win, securing $3,000 in prize money for Smash at UCI.

Reflecting on the experience, Guadron says,

“This event definitely taught us that we need to do more than just compete: We need to study our opponents, learn their stats, and talk to each other about the strategies we’ll use to win.”

Guadron notes, specifically, that UT Dallas made use of coaches, spreadsheets, and data they’d compiled about other teams’ players.

“As a team comprised solely of players, we definitely were the underdogs, but we will take that knowledge into account and put in more time to research our opponents in the future.”

Now that this year’s collegiate circuit has drawn to a close, the team won’t be competing until next October, when CSL qualifiers open for the 2019-2020 season. But, Guadron says, he and his crew will be competing in the singles tournaments hosted by UCI every Thursday in the UCI Esports Arena—be sure to stop in if you want to see the team in action!

(Or, of course, if you want to congratulate them on their amazing performance at this year’s CSL finals.)

From left to right: Sergio “Lt. Serge” Salas, Daniel “Mega” Nguyen, Rafael “Rafi” Guadron, Dominic “T3Dome” Carone, Justin “Muskrat Catcher” Muskat, Landon “Soulx” Stubblefield, and Jovanni “Jovanni” Rivera.