A third‑place finish at its first national tournament and growing participation from WSU students statewide has leaders of the university’s official Esports Club optimistic about the team’s future as a collegiate force in competitive video gaming.

“I am very proud of the team on their third‑place finish,” said the club’s coach James Hoplin, a WSU Global Campus classroom support technician who also traveled to New York City for the tournament. “We played against some of the nation’s best teams and we proved we belong in the discussion.”

The Electronic Gaming Federation’s inaugural Power Five Esports Invitational in New York, Jan. 18–19, was the club’s first foray into national-level esports competition.

“The trip to New York was an awesome experience,” said Bobby Belter, a computer science senior who is also the president of the WSU Esports Club. “We did well, playing better than I expected against the tougher teams.”

Three members of the club traveled to New York for the tournament, facing off against teams from Florida State University, University of Illinois, Louisiana State University, and Ole Miss in the video game Rocket League.

Competitor James Madamba, who studies management information services, was also happy with the team’s performance during the event.

“Despite coming up short in the semi‑final’s versus LSU, I am very proud with our overall performance,” he said. “My trip to New York City is one I will never forget.”

Belter agreed that the trip felt like a once in a lifetime experience.

Bobby Belter, James Madamba, and Glen Bennett pose for a picture in NYC's Time Square.
From left to right: Bobby Belter, James Madamba, and Glen Bennett pose for a picture in NYC’s Time Square.

“Having never been to New York, it was really cool to explore and experience the city during the trip,” he said.

WSU’s Esports Club rose to the level of national competition due to the enthusiastic efforts of its roughly 400 members and an ongoing partnership between WSU Student Affairs and the university’s Global Campus.

“Going to New York to represent WSU was the last thing I thought I would be doing as a college student,” said Glen Bennett, an electrical engineering major who also competed in the event. “But it is probably the single greatest experience I will have in my time at WSU.”

“It was satisfying to see them live their dream of representing Washington State University in an official capacity,” said Hoplin. “The team played extremely well and made all of Cougar Nation proud.”

Louisiana State University placed first in the competition, followed by Florida State University.