Newswise — Despite the unprecedented hurdles of COVID-19, Harrisburg University’s Esports team, the HU Storm, displayed true commitment, passion, and resiliency by advancing to the TESPA Collegiate Overwatch National Championship Grand Finals competition set for 3 p.m. Saturday, July 18.
After advancing from spring National Championship preliminaries that pitted the top 64 Overwatch teams from across the U.S., the Storm bested Auburn University, Fresno State, UCLA, the University of Washington, and the University of Utah during the quarterfinals and semifinals of the tournament last weekend. The Storm lost only one match against all five teams during the playoffs hosted by TESPA, the world’s largest operator of collegiate Esports leagues.
The Storm’s Overwatch team will face off against rival Maryville University Saturday, a team it had to beat to win the ESPN Collegiate Esports National Championship in 2019.
“Harrisburg University is proud of this tremendous accomplishment, especially since the team has had to overcome tough obstacles in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though they were unable to practice together and bond in person, the team still grew into a strong unit and advanced to the national championship,” said HU President, Dr. Eric Darr. “The team’s success is a testament to its resiliency and a win for the team, Harrisburg University, and the region.”
While the HU Storm has been able to effectively move all Esports operations online during the past few months, it has faced numerous challenges to reach the championship, said Joe Gramano, head coach of the HU Storm’s Overwatch team. Moving all practices and interactions online makes it much harder for team members to continue to develop strong relationships and teamwork, he said.
“Not being able to see each other, not being able to spend time with each other outside of the game, and not being able to talk things out face-to-face are all important factors in being able to build a strong and successful team,” Gramano said. “Despite this, we have found a way to make it all work and to create an environment where students are still passionate, motivated, and committed to the sport and to the team.”
Last weekend’s playoff run is a testament to the commitment the team, University, and regional supporters have made to keep the HU Storm on top of the collegiate Esports world during the past several months, he added.
“Everything we have recently accomplished really goes to show how even in the midst of a pandemic, where the world seems to have taken a step back, Esports continues to grow tremendously and has provided our students and Harrisburg University with something special to always be able to look forward to,” Gramano said. “I am excited to be heading into our final week of preparation for the TESPA 2020 Overwatch National Championship Grand Finals, and I know that by the end of the week, we will be able to look back at our season and really be proud of the continued success of our team and program.”
About the Harrisburg University Storm
Established in 2018, the Harrisburg University Storm is a member of the National Association of Collegiate Esports (NACE), the varsity Esports program that fields teams in Overwatch, League of Legends, and Hearthstone. Consisting of 16 members across three teams, the Storm won the 2019 ESPN Collegiate Esports Championship and numerous other collegiate championships. It also is the recipient of an international Tempest Award for Best Collegiate Esports Program. Harrisburg University is Pennsylvania’s first University to offer full-tuition scholarships to members of its varsity Esports team. The team calls a state-of-the-art, multimillion-dollar facility located in the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts home.