The Nooksack Valley High School esports team is undefeated and preparing for a state championship game against Sedro-Woolley on Wednesday, Dec. 14, livestreamed with professional commentators at 4 p.m.
The six-member varsity team, made up of two seniors, one junior and three freshmen, went a perfect 6-0 during the regular season playing the tactical game Valorant, defeating the likes of Meridian, 2A Lynden and 4A Lake Stevens along the way. Two wins in the single-elimination postseason puts NV on the cusp of a state title against the Cubs, the only other undefeated team in the state.
"The team has done amazingly well this year," says Owen Craig, the district's director of technology, especially considered last year the team was knocked out in the quarterfinals. "A few of the players have been practicing all summer since last year to really perform much better."
The Washington State Scholastic Esports Association currently has 16 schools playing Valorant. The 5v5 tactical game includes attackers and defenders. The attackers much plant the "spike" or eliminate the defending team, while the defenders must eliminate the opposition before they plant the spike or diffuse the spike before it completes a hack. Each team takes turns being the attackers and defenders and the first team to win 13 rounds with the team match.
"I think there is more excitement now than ever," Craig says. "Students and staff are getting interested in how the team is doing and watching the games' livestreams." The matches are also shown during lunch in the library the day after a competition.
The six-member team, with five playing at one time, includes: Brayden Sorensen, Mason Halaapiapi, Ray Torralba, Anthony Gonzalez, Hendrick Rogers and Cash Bosman.
Two NV students are also being recruited by Washington colleges to play on their Valorant team under scholarship. "This is a huge step in the right direction for what we are trying to provide for students," Craig says. "This is a way to take a passion for competitive video games down a path that starts in high school and can take you into college and on to a professional team."
Students practice twice a week with coach Joel Jeffrey, but constantly play games as a team to work with each other. They mix between Valorant, Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft and Overwatch. "I am a firm believer that being able to communicate and work well with your team will help in all games," Craig says. "The technical skills will not always be the same, but if you can communicate and work together as a team, you will do better in all games."
Craig says having students involved in the scholastic association allows students who play esports to gain recognition for their passion while working with a coach to help teach players communication and cooperation skills useful for any field in the future.
This March, Craig hopes to recruit enough players for an Overwatch 2 team and the high school will soon have a video production room to allow for their own commentators for future seasons. The room can also be used for audio engineering classes and the leadership class to produce videos and morning announcements.