Sept. 12, 2019
Members of the UT Dallas esports program celebrated after the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate team won the national championship at Shine 2019 in Worcester, Massachusetts. They are (front row, from left) Joshua Gue and Chaynen Casas; and (back row) Keven Nguyen, student assistant coach Eric Aaberg, Christopher Sweetman, Zach Rendulic, Phuong Huynh, Reynaldo Ortiz and Efrain Nazario.
The University of Texas at Dallas earned its first athletics national championship last month, and it was its newest squad that secured the title — the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate team.
The esports team traveled to Massachusetts to compete in the Collegiate Starleague Smash Ultimate National Championships on Aug. 23-25 at Shine 2019, one of the largest events in the world for Smash tournaments.
“This is an exciting moment in the short history of our esports program,” said Dr. Gene Fitch Jr.
vice president for student affairs. “I would not have thought it possible for our teams to be celebrating a national championship after just one year of existence. I wish to congratulate our student-athletes, analysts, coach Greg Adler and all those that contributed to this historic moment. This is only the beginning.”
2018-2019 Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Roster
- Joshua Gue, electrical engineering senior
- Phuong Huynh, computer science senior
- Efrain Nazario, arts and technology senior
- Keven Nguyen, mechanical engineering junior
- Reynaldo Ortiz, biomedical engineering senior
- Zach Rendulic, arts, technology and emerging communication sophomore
- Christopher Sweetman, computer science junior
The Comets, previously ranked as the top team in the Southern region, defeated the University of California, Irvine in the grand finals to become the No. 1 Smash Ultimate team in the nation.
Last fall, the University became one of the few in Texas to offer esports — competitive video gaming — as part of its athletics department, filling rosters for League of Legends and Overwatch teams. The Smash team was added in February.
Adler, head coach and director of esports at UT Dallas, said the accomplishment is still surreal.
“It’s pretty unbelievable,” he said. “This was the Smash team’s first semester, and they won a national championship. It speaks to how the sky is the limit and how strong our program could be down the line.”
After winning the first round versus Iowa State University 1-0, UT Dallas played against UC Irvine in the winners finals and won 2-0. The format was double-elimination, and UC Irvine beat UT Dallas in the first set of grand finals.
Phuong Huynh, who plays as Pokémon Trainer, said the teams looked to be evenly matched going into the second set. It all came down to each team’s mentality, he said.
“It was around 1 a.m. when we were playing; it was really late, and everyone was exhausted,” Huynh said. “I checked my phone, and there were so many overwhelming messages of support from people who were watching the stream and cheering us on. I felt like I had to pull it together, and I didn’t want to let them down, so I gathered all the resolve I had and during the last set of grands, I performed a lot better than I normally do.”
UT Dallas won the second set 4-0 to secure the national title.
The team of seven put so many hours into practice, analysis and strategy over the summer that they expected to come out on top, Adler said, though their triumph was a shock to the collegiate Smash scene.
Now, the pressure is on.
“I would not have thought it possible for our teams to be celebrating a national championship after just one year of existence. I wish to congratulate our student-athletes, analysts, coach Greg Adler and all those that contributed to this historic moment. This is only the beginning.”
“This is a great accomplishment, and we’re extremely happy, but we want to win every single year,” Adler said. “We want to be that team.
“The nice thing about it is nobody expected it. If you looked at the predictions and listened to what the other teams were saying, everybody was doubting us the whole time. To blow those expectations and beat teams that nobody thought we would beat is awesome, but now they see us coming. Now it’s time for us to step up and prove that we are the best in the country.”
Team member Christopher Sweetman said being the No. 1 team in the nation sets extremely high expectations going into next season.
He said the team aims to iron out a few of its flaws by either adding new players or tweaking its character roster.
“It means a lot to us that we were able to prove that Dallas-Fort Worth can compete on such a scale, because overall for Smash, Texas is considered a very quiet region compared to the others because we don’t travel out [of the area] as much,” he said. “It was a really big deal that we were able to show that, at least on a collegiate level, we were able to take on and beat all of the big powerhouses in the region.”
- UT Dallas’ Overwatch team will compete in Battle for Texas, Sept. 21-22. Hosted by The University of Texas at Arlington, 16 teams will compete at Esports Stadium Arlington.
- Those interested in trying out for the Smash team must compete in weekly tournaments hosted at 4:30 p.m. on Sundays at the Blackstone LaunchPad area on campus.
- The program plans to have more on-campus tournaments and events for students.
- Follow @UTDEsports on Twitter for updates or join the esports program’s Discord server.