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.
“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!”