Courtesy of The Baltimore Sun, Written by Jacob Calvin Meyer
The Howard Community College esports program didn’t exactly start off on a high note.
In its first-ever event, the Dragons’ Rocket League team lost to UCLA in a blowout.
Nine months later, though, Howard CC esports has two championships under its belt, with the most recent coming from its Rocket League squad. On April 26, the Dragons won the National Esports Collegiate Conference Rocket League championship with a 4-0 match win over top-seeded Northcentral Technical College.
With the victory, the Dragons became the first team in NECC history to win multiple championship trophies. In November, Howard CC won the NECC League of Legends championship over Newberry College.
“[The program] has obviously exceeded every expectation I had,” said Mark Winkel, Howard CC’s esports coordinator. “To be honest, my one and only goal for this season was to get participation and to show the administration that their investment in us was well founded. I don’t think anybody could’ve predicted the success we ended up having, with 30 student-athletes and winning two titles in two different game titles.”
The championship matchup was a revenge opportunity for Howard CC, which lost to NTC twice in the regular season by scores of 3-1 both times. The Dragons also had exciting wins to get to the title game, with victories over Army West Point and the University of Alabama.
The team’s starting roster is Logan Ghandi, Akaash Patel and captain Jeremy Hotchkiss.
“Rocket League,” available on PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch, is a unique sports game with both casual and competitive roots. Each team has three players who each operate vehicles, and the two squads battle over a large soccer ball to score goals on the other team.
The Dragons fell behind early in the first game, but Ghandi then scored two goals to put Howard CC ahead. In the second game, Patel found the back of the net on an aerial goal to take the lead, but NTC tied it with one second remaining to send the game to overtime. In overtime, Patel slammed home a score for the win.
In game three, Hotchkiss found Ghandi on a slick cross on a key goal, and Patel scored the game-winning goal with 30 seconds left. Ghandi then scored the championship point in the fourth game to cap off the Dragons’ win.
Winkel said he’s proud of his team’s growth and communication.
“It’s been really fun to see the development of the team,” Winkel said. “At the start of the fall season, their communication was not great and there wasn’t much team synergy, but now they took it all the way to win a championship. They have that team chemistry now, and their execution of game plans is flawless at this point. It’s been amazing.”
ABOUT NECC ESPORTS
The NECC began sponsoring esports in the fall of 2020. The NECC is currently sponsoring both regular season competition and championships across a wide variety of titles. The conference aims to serve the gaming community with respect and is a safe and inclusive environment. With more than 90 colleges and universities currently competing in the conference, the NECC is proud to be a positive home for the collegiate gaming community.