Novi’s Julia Lin receives the “Best Support NA” award for her role as supporter on the championship-winning League of Legends team.
NOVI — For the second straight season, Novi High School is bringing home a championship in esports.
After taking home the first-place title in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate last season, Novi brought home the first-place hardware for League of Legends on Dec. 10 at Oakland University.
Novi’s championship-winning team consisted of Robert Floros, Julia Lin, William Diaz, Nihal Dongari and Conner Kirkman, and was coached by Chris White.
It was another day at the office for Novi, who went undefeated in 12 matches during the season, but the state finals environment was a change of pace from playing at home throughout the season.
“Playing at home during the season made it feel like we were just hanging out with friends, but once you enter the atmosphere that Oakland provided to us, you felt like it was this very professional (atmosphere), and it kind of gets you into the mindset of wanting to win,” Floros said.
For the non-gaming crowd, League of Legends is a strategic 5v5 game where each player picks a champion (a character) and each champion is assigned five different roles during the game. The roles are top lane, jungle, mid lane, bot lane and support, and the objective is to take out the other team’s turrets en route to destroying their nexus (home base).
Like most team games, success is based on communication and reliability with teammates, and that’s something Floros said the team prides itself on.
“I think our chemistry is better than most teams,” Floros said. “We’re all really close friends and kind of like a mini family. With us, especially, it’s not just competing, but all of us as friends takes the nerves off and helps us perform better.”
With last year being Novi’s first official year for competitive esports after the Novi games club picked up traction, Novi’s League of Legends team only grew coming into the season. With the additions of Lin, Diaz and Kirkman, Novi was at full strength to make a run this year.
Lin, who has only played League of Legends for two years, said she picked up the game during the COVID-19 pandemic because her friends were playing it. Now she’s a talented player finding success in a male-dominated field.
“I’m glad that I can show that not only guys can just play games, but women can too,” Lin said.
With Novi and numerous schools such as Dearborn Divine Child, Bloomfield Hills and Detroit Catholic Central all having esports teams, it’s a growing sport that’s only going to increase in numbers.
“I think it definitely will grow, because I talk to a lot of my buddies at other schools, and their esports programs when they first started off after one or two years are already considered an actual sport there, and they have JV and varsity credits and letters,” Dongari said. “It’s definitely underground right now, but in the next two years, I could definitely see it being a really big thing in Michigan.”
As its popularity increases both on a high school and college level, it brings the esports crowd that much closer to potential Michigan High School Athletic Association recognition.
After all, Dongari said, esports players are athletes in their own right.
“I think people need to realize that esports players put in the same work as athletes do for basketball or football,” Dongari said. “We have our own practices. It’s a skill in a different way. If you put an average person in a video game, they’re going to get completely wrecked against some of us who have been practicing for a while. It has that different skill set, and people just need to know that it is a sport, but just not one that is played physically.”
Other Novi teams that competed at the state championships:
• Novi Green Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Runner-up): Kavin Kukunoor, Pranav Chinniah, Luke Guiboux and Rishi Tappeta.
• Novi White Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Semifinalist): Daniel Han, Jayden Anderson, Theo Coimbra and Brian Jiang.
• Novi Rocket League (Semifinalist): Justin Frick, Ian Coward, Jason Janigian, Zane Qaqish and Sky Ueki.
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