AACC’s new esports team plays first-ever season


Frank Fitzgeralde Libom

Esports gamers practice League of Legends to prepare for an upcoming tournament.

Zack Buster, Associate Editor

AACC’s new athletic esports team has lost every match so far in its first season, but the players improved with every tournament, according to the coach. 

“Yeah, I’m crazy proud of them,” coach Conway Johnson said. “They’ve gone from … total strangers to being able to swing at [teams from four-year schools] in just a few weeks. That’s incredible.”

Johnson said the gamers, who so far have competed in tournaments playing the video game Rocket League, are making great progress in a league full of tough teams. 

For its first-ever tournament on Feb. 2, a Riverhawks team of four Rocket League players competed against the University of North America in a 45-minute virtual tournament.

Despite the loss, Johnson said the team got better with each of the three rounds. 

“9-0 in the first game,” Johnson said. “7-0 in the second. … We were able to turn around and make it 2-3 in Game 3.” 

Johnson said the team, which only practiced together two times before the tournament, was up against skilled players from a four-year school.

“That’s a big deal,” Johnson said. “We’re talking SSL-level players. SSL is … the top 2 to 5% [of players].”

The Wednesday after that first tournament, the esports team was scheduled to play one of Catholic University’s two teams. However, just three hours before the game, CU canceled. 

Johnson said CU probably forfeited because the team didn’t have enough players.

“I think the biggest difficulty for us has just been that word of mouth thing,” Johnson said, “just being able to reach out and let people know there’s a program.”

Johnson also said the pandemic has hindered recruiting. 

“Most colleges, especially on the community college level, a lot of their outreach is in person,” Johnson said. “When you got so many students that are out remote, you lose a lot of that.” 

The week after the CU forfeit, the Riverhawks played a double-header against Shenandoah College and Northern Virginia Community College on Feb. 16. 

The team lost all three games against Shenandoah. However, with each game the Riverhawks improved. 

The first game, which the Riverhawks lost 7-2, was tough because Shenandoah outmatched the Riverhawks, Johnson said. In the second game, AACC stepped up the defensive game but sacrificed some offensive focus and ended with a score of 4-0.

 AACC played a hard uphill battle in the final game, scoring first and keeping the score tied for most of the match. The Riverhawks lost the game 6-4. 

In the second tournament of the night, AACC lost all three games against Northern Virginia Community College, with scores of 4-0, 4-0, 3-0. Johnson described the other team as one of the toughest the team has faced yet.

The coach and the players said the team will continue to get better as the season progresses.

“It is going to be an uphill battle the whole way,” Johnson said. “If what I saw tonight is any indication, we’ve got the potential to learn from it and be swinging back by the end of the semester.”

Team member Tyler Graves agreed.

“I feel like we’re going to grow a lot as a team and [have] more communication and improve,” Graves said.

Another gamer, first-year undecided student Justin Abell, echoed that sentiment.

“I think over the course of the season … we’ll do a lot better,” Abell said.


Reporter Jerryt Haley contributed to this article.