When Ethan Godfrey first started his role as Program Coordinator of Competitive Sports at Fairfield University back in 2017, he held an information session with students to see how popular an Esports organization would be on campus.
Out of this came the idea for a casual Fortnite tournament, where 72 students came out, showing Godfrey and the campus community that Esports could not only survive at Fairfield but thrive.
As the E-gaming scene grew globally back in the mid-2010s, the Electronic Gaming Federation (EGF) rose to the occasion and established leagues across many different competitive video games for youth groups, high schools and especially colleges. EGF Founder Tyler Schrodt, a former student at Rochester Institute of Technology, began running events out of his dorm room, according to the website.
This created the opportunity for the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC), alongside EGF, to create an Esports program that planned to hold its first conference championship event on March 13-14, 2020, according to a MAAC Press release. Due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the event was postponed to March 25, 2020, with players logging on from home.
E-Gaming Erupts at Fairfield
Godfrey stated that Fairfield stepped into the MAAC Esports scene in 2020. Since then, the program being offered at Fairfield University has grown to feature popular games like Valorant, Overwatch, Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, League of Legends and Rocket League.
Fairfield University’s Club Esports President, Logan McAloon ‘25, spoke to the importance of Club Esports on campus.
“I want Fairfield students to know that Club Esports is a welcoming and competitive organization that offers a variety of game titles,” McAloon stated. “We are open to players of all skill levels; whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gamer, there’s never been a better time to get involved in esports.”
The best way to get involved in Esports at Fairfield is to join their Discord server, which is the “central hub” for getting involved according to McAloon. The discord link can be found at https://discord.gg/C892zVRfBQ.
Rocket League Team Takes it Home
The Rocket League Team brought their three starters to the Showboat Hotel in Atlantic City, N.J. for the 2023 MAAC ESports Championship, which was held March 9 through March 11.
Matthew “Matter” Baker ‘24, Luke “Lawexpress” Wagher ‘26 and William “Skout” Duffy ‘23 were the three starting players for Fairfield’s team, who were able to dominate the regular season and secure the 2023 MAAC Championship.
With an undefeated season, winning all nine games and losing none, captain Baker and company had their sights set on the championship from the beginning.
According to an official bracket contributed by McAloon, Fairfield faced off against Manhattan College in the opening round, where they completed a three-game sweep in the best-of-five series.
In the semifinal round, they took on in-state rival Quinnipiac University, dropping one game to them but still breezing by for a series score of 3-1.
The championship round, which was a best-of-seven series, saw Fairfield pitting against Iona University, according to an article recapping the events of the tournament by esports.gg. This was a repeat of last year’s Rocket League championship, with Iona coming out victorious in 2022.
This year, however, the Stags took their revenge by sweeping Iona in four games to become the 2023 MAAC Champions. They did not lose a single game throughout the regular season, and according to the same article, this is the first time Fairfield has found itself in the champion’s column across any title, not just Rocket League.
“Mostly, I would say that this year was the culmination of everything we had been practicing and refining over the last three years,” Baker shared.
The road to the championship required lots of work from the team. “To prepare for the tournament, we joined another online league to play against other teams from around the country,” Wagher explained. “This gave us extra confidence going into the tournament since we knew that if we played our normal game, we would come out victorious.”
As a first-year student, Wagher joined the team without knowledge of his teammate’s playstyles; with this in mind, he had to work with his teammates to create a cohesive unit, which he claims only took “a few games”.
“Another seasoned teammate, Sam Martin, decided to take the semester off, which led to a hole in our line-up,” Baker explained. “Luckily the addition of Luke Wagher went seamlessly, and we all gelled quickly and easily. Our confidence level was high throughout the season, which carried us into and through the MAAC tournament.”
Wagher and his teammates knew the pressure was on during the final round, but channeled this energy into his best performance yet. “Since I was a freshman, I did feel a little pressure since nobody knew who I was so I just had to prove myself,” he shared. “All of us were playing our best game and it really showed since we won the series 4-0 against Iona in a best of seven.”
Baker felt the same about his strong performance, but his MVP win means more than just his individual effort.
“Rocket League is a team sport, and our performance was almost flawless in the final game. I obviously got the MVP Award for the championship, however, I really feel like it could have easily gone to any of my teammates,” he shared.
Looking ahead, Wagher and Baker feel confident in repeating the team’s success, even after Duffy graduates. They also look forward to seeing how the MAAC will shake out next year.
“Our goal will be to retain the championship title, but it won’t be an easy road. I know of a lot of other schools who also have players graduating, so it will be interesting to see how things pan out,” Baker stated.
The other Fairfield teams came up short in their respective tournaments but still displayed a strong performance regardless. Quinnipiac took home the Valorant championship, with Fairfield falling out in the quarterfinal round to MAAC newcomer Mount Saint Mary’s University.
The Stags additionally fell to Marist College in the quarterfinal round of the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate bracket and lost to Quinnipiac in the opening round of the Overwatch 2 tournament.
However, they put up a strong fight in the League of Legends Championship Tournament, as they were able to move swiftly past Quinnipiac in the first round. They eventually lost to Manhattan College, whose program had an undefeated season according to the same article on esports.gg.