Each of the final four teams is excited to compete at the Collegiate Rocket League’s live finals in Arlington, but no team is more excited than the University of North Texas.
Being the home team certainly doesn’t hurt said team captain Gunnar “Paak” Dickson. But while having the crowd on their side and potentially bringing home a trophy for the host state is enticing, Dickson said there’s much more to their excitement.
According to UNT, they’ve been cursed.
“I talked with our esports director not too long ago, and he said we broke the curse of teams not making it to the LAN,” Dickson said. “We’re the first UNT team to do that, so having our first time going be a win would be amazing.”
While the team only learned of the curse recently, it may account for the technical problems Alec “AlecStorm8” DeSantiago had throughout the season. The way Dickson described it, unsolvable lag issues plagued UNT’s defensive backbone all the way through the conference clash.
“I didn’t know exactly what kind of Alec we were going to get that day,” Dickson said. “The day after we lost to Arizona and we had one last chance to get in, he wasn’t having that many problems. I was just praying and hoping that his computer wouldn’t ruin that for us.”
Unsurprisingly, having so many technical issues was most difficult for DeSantiago. Not only did it limit his ability to perform at his best, he said it was also hard to convince people outside UNT that the problems existed at all.
“I didn’t want to talk about it because it always just seems like you’re making excuses,” DeSantiago said. “And it was also annoying because my teammates couldn’t put their trust in me.”
Playing in person will eliminate the potential for any connection issues, but live tournaments come with their own challenges. DeSantiago said there’s a huge difference between playing with a comfortable setup at home and on stage in front of a live audience.
Fortunately for UNT, the live finals in Arlington won’t be their first rodeo. In fact, the team has already won a similar tournament. UNT beat out three other southern teams to win a collegiate competition at DreamHack Atlanta 2017.
That victory wasn’t quite enough to earn the rest of the CRL community’s respect, though. Dickson said they’re regularly underestimated.
“I think they don’t think we’re as good as we truly are,” Dickson said. “That kind of fuels us and gives us momentum. So I think we’re not necessarily the bad guys—we’re just kind of brushed aside and then we’ll get you unexpectedly.”
For Dickson and DeSantiago, this is their last chance to earn any unexpected CRL wins. Both players are seniors, which means only Dylan “DBANQ” Windebank is likely to return next season. Still, with the home crowd on their side and technical issues out of the way, their odds have never looked better.
To see if UNT can defend their home turf, 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: