UNT Rocket League esports team closes out CRL season.
DENTON - The Pohl Rec Center is home to many activities and is a hotspot for students. But it if you took a left turn at the entrance and peered into the eyrie over the past month, you would have seen an entire athletic season play out before your eyes. UNT’s very own Rocket League team.
The team consists of 4 players: captain Dylan "dbanq" Windebank, Sahib "Corrosive" Mann, Diego "Luciuhh." Aleman, and substitute Tre' "TriTone" Benedict. The team is coached by former player Kyle "2Fast" Pressley and managed by Seth “Oatkicker” Dunnam.
Each player is incredibly skilled, and all aim for the ultimate prize, the Collegiate Rocket League National Championship. Diego Aleman recalled how he found his way into competitive Rocket League.
"I realized, as I was leaving high school that I was good at the game, and I was like, hm maybe I could take this to, y’know, esports,” said Aleman. And it just turned out that UNT had a really good Rocket League team.”
The school’s (short) history in the CRL is a very storied one. In four years of competition with seasons in spring and fall, the program has won their conference three times (in fall 2018 and 2019, and spring 2020), made it to the CRL national championship four times (fall ’17, fall ’18, fall ’19, and fall ’20), and made it to that tournament’s finals twice from the lower bracket.
Despite losing those finals, once in a 4-0 sweep by the University of Arizona after resetting the bracket 4-3, and in a 5-0 sweep by Akron University, UNT has established itself as a staple name in the CRL.
Player manager Seth Dunnam credited one player in particular as a key ingredient in the recipe for success.
“Definitely the main factor I would say is dbanq,” said Dunnam. “He’s probably one of the strongest players in CRL, and him being the captain just brings out the energy in the other players.”
The most recent season, which began on October 11th, looked to be more of the same UNT dominance. The team started the season strong, rattling off 5 straight victories. These were mostly over middle of the pack teams like UT Arlington, San Diego State, and Utah, but they also knocked off a top team in UNLV.
Despite a small stumble against the powerhouse Colombia College, UNT would correct course with a dominant victory over the last place Texas Tech. At the halfway point, UNT was 6-1, the team looked nigh unstoppable.
Unfortunately, on November 3rd, the season took a turn for the worse. Corrosive suffered a season ending out of game injury that would force them to sub in Tritone on short notice.
“It was actually the first time our school had a sub,” said Aleman.
Fortunately for the team, Tritone was very skilled and was quick to adjust.
“They started adjusting as quick as possible, he started adjusting to the speed of play and we won a few games with him,” Said Dunnam “That is better than a lot of people could hope for.”
Sadly, this didn’t immediately translate into results. UNT would drop the next three games to a UT Dallas at the top of the table, and two under .500 teams in CSU Long Beach and Missouri in a double-header.
The team was limping into the final game with Colorado Boulder with very high stakes. Win and secure the fourth and final seed. Lose, and be one of the few UNT Rocket League squads to miss playoffs entirely.
Fortunately, the team turned it around in a big way in the final moment. UNT took the series 3-2, ending the final game in overtime with a pass from Luciuhh to the captain himself, dbanq.
In that series, that was the most goals I scored throughout the whole season, so I think that was my highlight,” said Aleman.
Unfortunately, their playoff run would be a short lived one. Colombia would sweep them in the opening match, dominating almost all aspects of the game and snuffing out any hopes of a rally with an overtime goal to finish it.
Their luck would not get much better in the lower Bracket. UNLV shut them out in the first two games. UNT would show signs of greatness with an overtime victory in game 3. But the eventual Western champions would knock out the Mean Green with a dominant 5-0 victory in game 4, and an overtime victory to seal the deal.
Even though the playoff run ended without a win and won’t qualify UNT for the National Championship, the team still finished in the top half of an incredibly stacked Western Conference. Certainly, no small feat. The team is looking towards the future.
In the short term, we still have the Spring season together, and we have the fall season together,” said Aleman. “If everyone stays healthy and we stay on the grind, we will provide better results. I’m looking forward to the number one seed for sure.”
Despite the rough ending, The UNT Rocket League program is primed to bounce back, and face whatever challenges lie ahead. If they keep their heads high, next spring, any team in the Western Conference that wants to make National Championship run, will have to make it through the Mean Green first.