Rocket League Gold Reaches the NECC Navigators Championship in Overtime Thriller
Heading into the game against a familiar foe, they had won eight straight matches. However, trailing two games to zero in their best of five semifinal, Rocket League Gold team’s chances at reaching the title game were bleak. In an unlikely turn of events, the young squad clawed their way back into the series and clinched the 3-2 reverse sweep in an electrifying game five.
Valpo dropped the opening game in heartbreaking fashion. Tied 1-1 at the end of regulation, they took Murray State Blue deep into overtime before finally conceding a goal after almost three added minutes. Zachary “ZAM02” Kellogg felt Murray State was the toughest competition they had faced all year. “I was really nervous in the first game,” he said. “All season we haven’t really been pushed like we were tonight and to eventually prove that we could overcome that gives me a lot of confidence.”
In the second game, the Beacons continued to lack rhythm on offense. They scored just one goal again and fell 3-1, putting their undefeated season on life support. Valpo Alum / Head Coach Jeff Molitsky made a crucial decision heading into the pivotal game when he replaced ZAM02 with Daniel “Smurphy” Murphy. “Dan is a bit more defensive and a little more aggressive on his fifty-fifty balls. I knew it would switch the field and catch them by surprise,” Molitsky said.
Jeremy “Guin19” Blumka provided a much needed spark by scoring both goals in a 2-0 game three win. On the other end of the field, Smurphy filled his role perfectly, keeping Murray State out of the net. The final member of the trio, Jaymes “IHateStairss” Hernandez-Garrity thought the third game shifted the momentum. “Going from down 2-0 to 2-1 gave us the confidence to know that if we took one, we can take two more,” he said.
The night’s fourth game proved to be a familiar defensive battle. The score read 0-0 all the way up to the 1:24 mark when Smurphy finally broke through for Valpo. Guin19 added a second goal securing back-to-back 2-0 victories and tying the series at two games apiece. The team played a lot more loose in game four, cracking jokes mid game and keeping their spirits high.
The Beacons needed every bit of strength for the final game which turned into an instant classic. Both teams opened at breakneck speed as Stairs scored thirteen seconds into the game, but Murray State equalized a mere two seconds later. Blumka snagged the lead back twenty seconds after that making the score 2-1 Valpo with 4:25 still remaining.
Following the flurry of early goals, both teams settled in defensively for a while until Murray got the better of Valpo, grabbing a couple quick goals and a 3-2 lead with 30 seconds left in the semifinal series. The undefeated team seemed to be doomed, but Guin19 had other plans. As the clock hit zero, Smurphy popped the ball up in desperation and Guin slammed it home to force overtime. “At first I was thinking ‘oh crap’ I missed and lost the game,” Smurphy said. “It was very exciting to see that Jeremy was right there to put us into overtime.”
Valpo fought their way back from certain defeat and needed one last push to complete the incredible comeback. With everything on the line, it was none other than the evening’s top scorer, Guin19, to come up huge. Guin’s overtime winner 59 seconds into the extra frame secured the miracle reverse sweep and the team exploded with joy. “The final goal was super stressful. I had to say to myself ‘no stress,’ turn away, and get a better lineup,” Blumka said.
Coach Molitsky is proud of the hard work the Gold team put in throughout the year to lead them to the championship match. “I attribute our success to how dedicated they are to a team effort. They come in twice a week ready to go,” he said. “They love playing with each other; they are always at practice. The team chemistry is really good and they all just love playing Rocket League.”
The Beacons will face off against Centre College in the Navigator White division finals on Tuesday, December 7th. Time TBD.
Follow along with the championship game and all of the esports matchups this semester at https://www.twitch.tv/valpoesports.