Proving they could succeed where no other team could, the University of California, Berkeley rolled over tournament favorite, University of California, Irvine, to win the Fiesta Bowl Overwatch Collegiate National Championship. Cal’s victory this Saturday at Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Fitness Complex over a previously undefeated team is a testament to their program’s strength, which some doubted after losing half of last year’s winning roster.
Their victory was all the more surprising considering that UCI looked absolutely dominate against their semi-final opponents, the University of California, San Diego. Chansoo “Lootre” Park led the charge as a monster on DPS, but the entire team put together a complete performance.
Meanwhile, Cal had to find its footing after dropping the first map of their semi-final match against the University of Toronto. Daniel “Alined” Lee deserves a lot of the credit for his off-meta Torbjorn, which helped his team regain momentum by shutting down Toronto’s offense on Eichenwalde. His pick was well-supported by the rest of the team, but Alined’s flexibility was a running theme throughout the whole tournament. Across the three maps they won in their semi-final set, he only played the same hero (Torbjorn) twice.
Regardless, when it was time for UCI to finally face off against Berkeley, it felt as if the former were poised to fulfill the promise of a 16-0 regular season. But when the doors opened on the set’s first map, it was Cal that came out swinging for the fences. UCI lost two of their six players on the initial fight over the control point, which soon led to a complete team wipe. And after that first fight, UCI just did not seem comfortable engaging with their opponents without giving up too many resources.
Cal was able to maintain their momentum through map two, where they held off UCI’s quadruple tank composition repeatedly. The Anteaters attempted multiple approaches, but their disadvantage in the ultimate economy cost them. The best example of this problem came on UCI’s third push, where Lootre caught half of Cal with Graviton Surge. Normally that would have resulted in three easy kills, but Isaias “IzzyyyB” Barrera used his Transcendence to keep the Berkeley players alive.
From there, Cal turned the tables and broke the push. UCI did almost zone Berkeley off the point in the 11th hour, but Brendan “Tildaebox” Alvarez couldn’t survive long enough for reinforcements to arrive. Then, when the teams swapped roles, Cal clinched the map win with a single push. They also relied on quad-tank (but went with Roadhog over Zarya), but UCI wasn’t able to actually kill them.
With their backs against the wall, UCI dug in their heels on the third map. Their offense on Temple of Anubis looked more like how they played earlier in the day, with the Anteaters finally breaking through the first point of a map. Yet, despite having ample time to take the second point, they just barely managed with 4.4 seconds.
Alined was incredible at being a nuisance on Mei, blocking himself off from damage while continually contesting the point. At one point, he even walled UCI off in their spawn point. The Anteaters almost punished their opponents successfully for playing so far forward by sneaking around them, but Cal was able to defend in time.
On offense, Cal returned to their quad-tank composition, which let them snowball past Lootre’s Widowmaker and assault the point. There, they took it even quicker than UCI did, and attempted to keep rolling through the second point. UCI fought hard to push them off, just barely coming out on top in a number of holds. But in the end, a single Graviton Surge helped Cal focus down UCI one by one, until they completed the map with far more time in their bank.
Needing a good second shot on offense, UCI’s two chances to capture the point bounced off Cal’s solid defense. But when it came to forcing a draw, the Anteaters showed a final sign of hope. Lootre forced the Bears off of their quad-tank comp by playing Reaper, and Nick “Learntooplay” Theodorakes kept staved off Cal’s second push with a huge Earthshatter. Support player Sebastian “Selectt” Vasquez also managed to notch a couple key kills, all while saving his crucial ultimate for one of Cal’s final attempts.
However, who else but Alined could get hammer the final nail into UCI’s coffin? A huge Pulse Bomb from his Tracer managed to catch half of the Anteaters, and the rest of their teammates crumpled in the next seconds. In the blink of an eye, Berkeley took their second consecutive national, collegiate title.
The victory was as sweet for Cal as it was UCI’s loss was bitter. Neither team matched their expectations going into the tournament, though one team was more satisfied with that than the other. And while it wasn’t as contentious a match as some might have hoped, Berkeley certainly proved that they aren’t to be trifled with in the finals. To go along with their victory, each Cal player took home $7,000 in scholarships.
As the runners-up, UCI starters earned $3,000, as well as a deeper hunger for victory. Now that they have been denied as the favorites two years in a row, they will look to patch the holes in their armor before the next season of Tespa’s collegiate Overwatch starts up.