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Maryville University video game team adds 2nd championship to its resume

Maryville University's esports team playing in April.
Courtesy of Maryville University
Maryville University's esports team playing in April.

Updated at 6:20 a.m. May 29 with tournament results — Battling in the video game "League of Legends" is a team sport, just like basketball, according to Marko Fosniki. Everyone has a role and a position.

Unlike basketball, he and his teammates are still working on how to play it: “Literally we’re the first generation and we have to figure out all the mistakes we make on our own and we can help our teammates out that way.”

The Maryville University esports team successfully defended its title in Los Angeles this weekend, beating the University of Toronto in Sunday's finals

Though only in its second season, the team holds the longest winning streak in school athletics history — after going 40-0 last year and starting this season undefeated before finally losing two matches.

Fosniki and his teammates took on teams from across North America in best-of-three matches that can last several hours. The objective is to destroy the opposition’s base before they do the same to yours.

Such long games can be mentally draining.

“There’s minute reflex things that you need to make,” captain Dan Clerke said. “Decisions that you make, mathematical calculations to decide what to do within a split second.”

Despite quick success, Clerke said there’s still a lot of pressure.

“If you’re an esports athlete, you literally go from playing in your mom’s house to playing on a stage in front of people,” he said.

Competitive gaming has grown to be a $700 million industry, according to Newzoo, a digital gaming marketing firm. Clerke, who will be a senior in August, recruited many of his teammates to come to Maryville, and they receive financial aid from the college, though school officials would not say how much.

And, like in other college sports, one Maryville esports team member is planning to leave school early to go pro.

Follow Ryan on Twitter: @rpatrickdelaney

Ryan was an education reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.