Ask most Collegiate Rocket League fans what they know about Penn State’s team and they’ll tell you two things.
1) It’s DaCota “Doodle” Eaton’s team, and 2) no one expected any team from the Eastern Conference to qualify for the finals, let alone PSU.
The truth is a bit more complicated.
Penn State almost didn’t qualify for league play, and then had a mediocre regular season. Despite looking like an average team, the Lions exploded into prominence during the playoffs and wrote their ticket to the finals as one of the league’s ultimate underdogs.
As for Eaton’s contributions to the team, the statistics show he has a significant impact on their success. However, Eaton acknowledges he couldn’t score so effectively without Jonathan “Wild” Heller and Austin “Tennismaster11” Pietrak putting the ball in the right place for him.
Initially the focus on Eaton bothered Heller, but the team adjusted their perspective to keep it from driving a wedge between them.
“It was annoying at first because obviously Tennis and I do things,” Heller said. “But once Doodle started scoring some pretty crazy goals, we accepted it, and now it’s become an inside joke for us.”
According to Heller, the team tries to stay laid-back and humble, which may have helped them focus less on what the rest of the league thinks and more on having fun. Overall, Heller said his team isn’t interested in claiming to be the best.
What they are interested in is preparing for the finals.
Tuning mechanics and learning to properly read the situation can be tricky for Penn State. Since Eaton is at a higher online rank than his teammates, matchmaking on the competitive ladder makes finding a good game difficult, explained Heller. They play either casual or rumble games since few college teams want to scrimmage this late in the season. Ultimately, that has reduced the team’s mental endurance when playing against other top collegiate teams.
“You could see it whenever we played in the conference clash,” Heller said. “We ended up sweeping Akron, but after that we started making so many mental mistakes. We’ve been working with our coach on a lot of replay analysis to clean a lot of that up.”
While Heller said the team is mainly focused on the tournament, he’s also excited to finally meet his teammates in person. Eaton added that even though Penn State is like a family to him, those friendships have been built entirely online through Discord and Snapchat. Since Pietrak spends a lot of time in China studying abroad, and their previous attempts to meet up have always fallen through, the three will be glad to spend some time together regardless of the weekend’s result.
To see if Penn State can pull off the upset victory, catch the finals at 2:00 p.m. CST on twitch.tv/rocketleague. Also, tickets are still on sale for those who want to witness the action in person. Finally, don’t forget to read up on their competition to get the full picture of the finals: