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New MSU varsity esports Valorant team looks to create winning culture

Jono Eatan

Michigan State’s varsity Valorant esports team is relatively new, only in its second semester of action. There have been challenges, like losing their coach, but the team has persevered, securing the No. 2 seed out of 15 in the Big Esports Conference. The team finished a 10-2 regular season record.

Valorant is a first-person game, putting five vs. five in a search-and-destroy shooter game. Players plant a bomb, and some players defend it; each character, called an agent, has different abilities.

According to sophomore John Masterman, the team consists of seven members, five starters, and two subs, and everyone plays a substantial part in its success.

"The subs have saved our butt a couple of times," said Masterman. "They put in a lot of work. They're there a lot. We've used the subs quite a bit because it's not easy. Five full-time students have been there every night, all together. So it's nice to have them there. They're pretty reliable."

Jono Eatan

Last semester, the team felt it was the best in the conference and is trying to maintain that momentum.

"In the first semester of our varsity program, with new teammates and the development of our team dynamic, we focused on laying the foundation," said team captain Alex Kim. "This semester, we’ve seen significant growth in the team. Last semester, we laid the groundwork for beating good schools and now look even better."

One perk of being a part of a varsity esports team is traveling to places like Hawaii for tournaments.

"I think it's awesome to play all the matches in the facility and be a part of a team," said Masterman. "The trips are awesome. We had that trip to Hawaii. It was cool. We did a lot of cool stuff there. We met a lot of cool people. Yeah, the whole experience is pretty awesome."

Toward the end of the first semester, the Valorant team’s first head coach left MSU for another opportunity. Which means the players had to coach each other this semester until a new coach is hired.

"As a team, it took a lot of perseverance, and outside of the normal work, I guess a team would have to improve and get better," said Masterman. "It's just been a bit of a rocky road through the start of the semester. But we hit the ground running and haven't slowed down yet."

Preparation became more challenging and stressful for the team without a coach.

"As soon as we lost our coach, it felt like a lot of the time, I had to take over many things, and so that was very stressful individually for me," said Kim. "Everyone has been pretty supportive; they've been there to listen and be there when it matters, which I'm very grateful for. The most significant and stressful part is ensuring everyone's on the same page, not just scheduling-wise but also on the server. Sometimes, we just don't have enough time to practice. We're all busy doing our things because we all are students."

Preparation is more individual for matches, with each team member having their routine. However, there are two crucial pieces to ensure the team is on the same page and not falling behind other teams.

"To prepare for a match, we sometimes counter-strategize the other team," said Kim. "We ensure that our fundamentals are proper and that our communication is on point."

Kim talks about how the team went about improving their skills.

Jono Eatan

"I think losing our coach will hurt us in many ways," said Kim, "but it also helped us improve and focus on our game and individual skills. We had to hone in a little bit."

Masterman explains why he believes being a part of the program is important.

"One of the things I'm pretty thankful for is that we have a varsity program rather than just a club team," said Masterman. "Many colleges have club teams rather than a full varsity program. They don't have a whole support group, but we're given these facilities to work in, and we're given coaches and staff."

The team is a close knit, trying to spend time with one another.

"We like to play together outside our practices and competitions," said Masterman. "We'll show up to the facility early a lot of the time and spend a little extra time together. I know some of us have some classes together. We'll work on some school assignments and stuff together as well."

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