Patricia Mathu
Mercury Staff

Esports players win against UC Irvine in final round of inaugural ‘Smash Ultimate’ national competition

UTD esports just secured their first national athletic title. The “Super Smash” team competed and won first place at the SHINE national tournament, where they took home first place and a $9,000 scholarship to split among themselves.

“Super Smash Bros. Ultimate” was released in December 2018, making SHINE the first national competition and UTD’s players the first national champions. The team took home the title after playing a final game against the University of California at Irvine. Senior Reynaldo “Orex” Ortiz won the final round for UTD when he took advantage of his opponent’s high damage and dealt the final blow.

To qualify for nationals as a collegiate team, UTD won at both the city and regional level. “City” is defined by other Texas universities, including University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University. The “regional” level included universities across the southeast, where UTD beat teams like the University of Central Florida, which has a strong esports team.

Senior Phuong “Point” Huynh  said UTD was not on a lot of esports commentators’ radars going into nationals.

“CSL league (the group that organized SHINE) did a run-down of all the teams that were going to nationals and ours was the dark horse of everyone,” Huynh said.

UTD’s esports team launched in fall 2018. Because the team is still young, their win was a surprise in the esports community, head esports coach Greg Adler said.

“But I think people that do know us know our potential,” he said.  

Adler said that UTD’s preparation set them apart from their competition. The team spent their summer researching their opponents’ strategies, game play and characters. They then called on people outside their team, whose styles mimicked opponents they would face from the other teams, to train against them.

“We knew every other team and we knew what we wanted to do against every other team,” Adler said. “We were very, very prepared in that sense. We knew every situation. I don’t think any of the other teams were nearly as prepared as we were.”

Though some were surprised by the win, Adler said he had confidence.

“We knew that we had the potential to win,” he said. “It was just a matter of actually getting there and performing.” 

“Smash Ultimate” remains an accessible game many people, including UTD students, play. Their win has increased UTD’s campus interest in Smash, Hyun said.Their local “Smash” tournament, Comet Clash, saw an increase in participation after their win. This weekly tournament hosted on Sundays in Blackstone Launchpad remains one of the main ways the team recruits new players.

In addition to more people playing Smash on campus, when the esports team sent the nationals stream over Discord, Huynh said he saw an unimaginably positive response from the UTD community. 

“They told us they were rooting for us,” he said. “They took pictures of themselves, like at Whataburger with friends, just watching and cheering us on.” 

In addition to the historic nature of the first national “Smash win” and the first UTD national win, the competing players left the tournament with a new reputation and a sizable scholarship to split amongst themselves.

Looking forward, Adler said he wants to see another championship.

“I think the reality is people are going to see us coming, now, so we just have to stay on top of our game and really just prepare,” Adler said. “The reality is we need to keep working at it and prepare for the next split.”