Rocket League team places fifth in first IHSA state finals


Screenshot from one of Lane’s Rocket League state championship games. Lane won two of four matches at the competition. (Screenshot courtesy of the Lane Tech Esports Club)

By Mariah Shaikh, Reporter

Every spring, athletes across the IHSA embark on a journey to a state title through the IHSA state playoffs on the field, in the pool and on the diamond.

This year, a new venue was added – the computer screen.

 Lane’s Esports Rocket League team faced off against opposing teams in 3-v-3 matches in the first IHSA-sanctioned Esports state playoffs, on Saturday, April 30.

The Rocket League team played a total of four matches, winning two of them. They placed fifth statewide.

Rocket League is an online soccer game but with a twist: players control cars to direct the ball towards the net to score points. With power-ups, backboards and high jumps, players can utilize these (as well as teamwork) in order to score different types of goals, defend the net and steal and pass the ball.

Lane’s team entered the tournament anticipating challenging matches – they expected seasoned players on opposing teams to put up a fight. 

According to one of the team members, Matthew Kociolek, they were prepared for the games to be “never easy losses or easy wins.”

“My goals were to make it as far as I can and to see how it goes and to also have fun while doing it,”  team member and club president Justis Walker said.

On game day, the team was called up from the waiting room to the sign-in stations, according to Kociolek. After logging on to their rocket league accounts and setting up the match, the two teams began the game. 

“It was definitely intense, especially with your opponent in the room,” Kociolek said. “You could sort of feel the tension between the teams. Especially if it came down to the last game or the last ball.”

When Lane’s Rocket League team secured victory in their first game, Kociolek said that although the team was jovial that they won, they knew that it wasn’t time to celebrate just yet.

“It felt good in the moment, but we tried to stay focused on trying to win, like the whole thing,” Kociolek said.

Although Lane lost the game before the semifinals, the team said they were glad to have made it that far. 

“I think it definitely was an experience that I won’t forget, and placing fifth was something that I could say I’m proud that I was able to do it. … But I am not necessarily fulfilled – but I could say partially fulfilled – because I still think there is room for improvement,” Walker said.