The Cal Times student news is a publication of the Student Association Inc. at California University of Pennsylvania

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The Cal Times student news is a publication of the Student Association Inc. at California University of Pennsylvania

Cal Times

The Cal Times student news is a publication of the Student Association Inc. at California University of Pennsylvania

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PennWest Cal ESports Team Ready to Press Start on 2024

Organizers Lay Out Roadmap for the New and Emerging Squad
PennWest+California+Student%2C+Nikkisha+Thompson%2C+in+the+ESports+Zone
Nathan Kurtz
PennWest California Student, Nikkisha Thompson, in the ESports Zone

Thomas Hasbrouck gives all of the credit to those around him, but as he puts it, he “lit the fuse”.

PennWest ESports all started after the Assistant Director of Campus Recreation noticed something puzzling: while the rate of student enrollment had stayed the same, sign-ups for intramural sports dipped significantly.

“Pre-Covid, we started to see our numbers dwindle a little bit, but our enrollment was pretty stable at the time”, he said, “What I noticed was, students in Natali were now playing [games] as their form of recreation. It’s their way of building comradery, having that team atmosphere.”

That was the inception. Now, after years of work and the grand opening of the ESports center in 2022, the team is ready for the new semester and the new year as a returning member of the local Mid-Atlantic ESports Conference, or MAEC. They’ll be competing as one of only two teams from Pennsylvania, with other universities representing places like Virginia, New Jersey, and Washington DC.

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Students on the team were put to the test during tryouts last week. Now, the 20-member team will put their skills to work playing three separate video games against other teams in the MAEC: Rocket League, Overwatch, and Valorant. The separate teams will play their games competitively once per week for six to eight weeks, with time in-between for practice, scrimmages, and internal competition.

And that schedule is perfect when everything is done virtually, according to Hasbrouck.

“The great thing about ESports is, unlike traditional sports where you have to travel, you can create a homebase and compete there,” he said, “So logistics-wise, it meets our needs and meets our students’ needs as well.”

The team has brand new spots for other students as well. In addition to the players themselves, the team offers roles for Commentators and Casters for the competitive matches, all streamed on Twitch, an online gaming-centric streaming platform. While the players are locked in on winning their matches, commentators will relay what’s happening to the audience. Behind the scenes, casters will handle the technical aspects of the streams themselves.

Jessie Galla is the ESports Team Coordinator at PennWest Cal, and she has big aspirations for the casting and commentating portion of the squad. For her, these roles give opportunities to students who love gaming, but aren’t competitive gamers.

“Our goal is to have all of our games streamed on Twitch with live commentary,” she said, “We don’t want people to think they can’t get involved with the ESports program just because they’re not a competitive gamer.”

Nathan Kurtz

As for the competitive gamers themselves, excitement is building for a new team on the rise. Camden Harvey, a Sophomore Mechatronics Engineering Technology major, is a member of the Rocket League squad, along with three others. As a member last year, Harvey is expecting his team to improve.

“I’m very excited to play against some of the same schools as last semester,” he said, “We have mostly the same squad as before, so I’m hopeful that some of those matches we just barely lost will be winnable this semester because we’ve had time to work on our chemistry.”

Last semester, their first as a competing member of the MAEC, the PennWest California team nearly made the playoff tournament, in which the top four teams travel to Washington DC to play live for the Championship. Now for 2024, Harvey believes his team is a contender.

“We were really close to making the playoffs last semester,” he said, “and I think now we have an even better chance of actually making it.”

With tryouts done and their first games coming up next week, PennWest California ESports is poised to make noise as the new kids on the block. For any inquiries on how to join or get involved, email Thomas Hasbrouck at [email protected], or campus recreation at [email protected].

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About the Contributors
Andrew Havens, News/Reviews Editor
Andrew Havens is a staff writer for the CalTimes and a Junior Communications Studies major with a minor in Marketing. Being from right across the river in Brownsville, PA, Andrew knows and loves the local community, trying his hardest to show off the amazing people in his hometown as well as his university. Andrew is just starting to pick up real-world writing and marketing experience, interning for both SteelerNation.com and Heartland Fabrication over the summer, as a staff writer and marketing intern respectively. The research gathering process is his favorite part of the job, because: "if you've researched correctly, the story just falls together!" You can find Andrew all over campus: attending meetings with the Graphic Design Club, writing away furiously on his laptop, working up a sweat at the gym, or simply getting his favorite sushi from Umami. He is entering his second year writing for the CalTimes.
Nathan Kurtz, Staff Writer/Photographer
Class 2026 Sports Management Major. Sports photographer and member of CUTV and WCAL

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