1870 Mag

Ready Player One, Two, And Three

OSU’s Rocket League squad looks to build after successful 2017 campaign.

It’s Saturday night with the boys. Everyone came over looking for something to do, but no one ever has any ideas of things to actually do.

“We could… go to a bar?” one of your friends will probably suggest.

“Nah. I’m too broke,” another friend will probably respond.

When you are too broke for the bars, and feeling lazy, what else to turn to besides video games? You already paid for the game, your fridge might have a few beers still rolling around from the last party, and you can do the old taking turns with the controller trick. Of course, the best games to play with a group of friends are the competitive ones. Fortnite has taken the world by storm (no pun intended). Ultimate teams in FIFA and NBA 2K have depleted your bank account with all the microtransactions. And of course, Rocket League, the simple $20 game that consists of chasing a gigantic soccer ball with high speed remote controlled cars, will forever be a go-to.

When you’re messing around with your friends playing car-soccer (known affectionately as soccar), you probably have some sweet moments—whether you get a perfect side swipe or a game-changing save—and those tastes of victory help mask the flavor of defeat against the sweaty 14-year-olds online. But for us who take to Rocket League as a means of entertainment, escaping the workload of school, and releasing stress via electronics, it’s a whole new game—quite literally—for the Ohio State Rocket League Team.

The young team was formed in fall of 2017, and has been competing since—including a national runner-up finish soon after the team came to fruition.

Zach Dell, the coach and manager of the team, oversees practices, training and tryouts—yes, tryouts—for the team. This isn’t some random matchmaking lobby. This is serious business. Dell handles the oversight of the team. He checks out potential new team members to see how they’ll fit into the squad. And he makes sure the team keeps a high morale because anyone who’s played Rocket League knows one thing: it is frustrating as hell.

Dell is also the man in charge of in-game decisions for the two OSU Rocket League squads, but don’t expect this coach to just sit on the sidelines. When needed, Dell can step in and provide a spark to the team and help assist them to victory. It helps that he spends a lot of his time studying upcoming opponents and deciding the best ways to attack their weaknesses.

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Currently, the starting roster for the team is Jbob (Jimmy Bauer), Kiingz (Aaron Nikolai) and Vortex (Ben Friedberg), who’ve been around since the beginning. However, it hasn’t all been smooth for OSU Rocket League. The team came to fruition because of OSU missing a qualifier round, actually.

“I met Kiingz after that qualifier and knew that once I found a third we’d have a shot to win it all,” Bauer said.

Turns out he didn’t have to look far. The team’s third starter—Vortex—was already a friend of Bauer’s from being highly ranked, and it just so happened that Vortex was coming to Ohio State. With the trio, Ohio State finished as a national runner-up.

You might be reading this thinking you and your best pals might be able to come together and challenge the team. I thought so myself while writing. But don’t be foolish. While most of us spend our times chasing the ball on the ground, the OSU Rocket League Team can pretty well play any ball. Off the ground, in the air, hell, they probably can figure out a way to get under the ground.

Still not convinced? I wasn’t either. So I asked for proof.

And they let me watch a stream of practice. Yup, Bauer was not exaggerating. The team regularly seemed to be flying to hit the ball. They rotated flawlessly from passing to shooting to defense. There were no easy goals, either—everything came about because the team had meticulously taken boosts from the field away from the other team and outmaneuvered them.

Dell provided play-by-play for me—and boy, was there a lot to take in.

On any given kickoff, the team has one person going toward the ball and two splitting to the sides for boost. Dell made comments on things as trivial as turning to the left or right to position yourself on the ball. In the span of 30 seconds, Dell had spoken about what felt like a million micro-decisions that impacted how well the team performed.

And that was all during a practice. Are you convinced yet?

People new to the game who are told that it’s soccer with cars and are probably low Bronze I players, Dell says. As for the Buckeyes on the cyber soccer field, they are all Grand Champions—literally. Like all the other sport teams on Ohio State’s campus, there’s a gap of almost 25 million people between scrubs like you and I and the members of OSU’s team

Looking to join the squad? Shoot an email to [email protected] to get the ball rolling. Don’t wait up either! You gotta get in before August if you want to compete in the fall competitions.

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