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Cambridge gamer goes to the next level in new collegiate league

Conestoga College joins the NCAA equivalent for esports and beats teams from all over North America
Matt Lopacinski sits with his gaming setup to go up against the best schools in North America.

For the first time ever, Conestoga College's Condor Esports team, led by 23-year-old Matt Lopacinski, of Cambridge, beat out Michigan Tech University, Washington University and Windsor University in their opening matches of the season. 

In their ‘League of Legends’ games, Lopacinski, a health information science major, and his team won their first four matches and set the tone for the season. 

“We just tried to go out there and have fun,” said Lopacinski. “It was exciting to get back and start playing competitively against other schools.”

With the new school year starting, Conestoga Condors entered into the National Esports Collegiate Conference(NECC) to go up against the best schools in North America. 

“This is such an amazing opportunity for Condor Esports and the entire scene in general,” said Zack Dodge, supervisor for Condor Esports. 

After going undefeated in the preseason matches Conestoga was placed in the Champions League for League of Legends and the Challenger leagues for the game 'Rocket League'. These are both in the top two levels for each game. 

Being a part of this new conference is like the NCAA of esports, Lopacinski said. This will make the games they play more competitive, because they are matched up against programs with similar skill levels. 

Unfortunately for the Condors, their League of Legends regular season opener didn’t go as planned losing to the University of Toronto Mississauga, 2-0. 

Despite their loss, Conestoga looks to bounce back this Wednesday against Queen's University.

“We want to create an environment where we have fun first and can get along as a team,” said Lopacinski. “Winning is important, but we have to be having fun.”

Lopacinski is no stranger to competitive esports. Having played the game Counter Strike on a semi-professional level, he knows what it takes to win at a high level. 

“I’ve been playing video games for years and now the fact that I can get a scholarship playing a game I love is pretty amazing,” he added. 

Currently Conestoga's esports program is operating at an at home basis for the time being. There is no physical space for players to train and play on campus, but Dodge hopes this will one day change. 

“I think playing out of their homes really speaks to the talent and drive the players have and to the program itself,” said Dodge. “It'll be very exciting to see what our players can do when they bring that together under one roof.”

So far Conestoga has gone up against some of the best schools in North America with huge budgets for their athletic development and the Condors with very limited facilities have toppled them one by one. 

“I was trying to tell our team that it doesn’t matter the population of the school or the facilities they play in. All you need is a few people who are good at a game and competitive spirit and you can win.,” said Lopacinski. 

There is still a stigma around gaming that Condor esports wants to erase and pave the way for the next generation of gamers from Cambridge and Waterloo region. 

“While some might see video games as a waste of time or damaging to children, this couldn’t be farther from the truth,” said Dodge. “There is an actual path that can be followed by gamers that can get them into the best schools and take their talents to the next level.”

Lopacinski sees himself as a first hand example that this is a career that can take you to places all around the world and help you get into a college to play competitively. 

“My team and I are kind of the first run of gamers that are able to play at the collegiate level and obtain scholarships doing so; it’s only going to go up from here,” he said. 

Conestoga could be looking at attending in-person tournaments towards the end of the season if they can place high enough in the standings. 

There is an end of season tournament where Lopacinski can already see the condor colours and banners coming to life for the first time in an arena. 

“We already have such good chemistry over a discord chat, I can’t wait to get everyone together where we can play side-by-side in person. The atmosphere will be insane,” he added.

The Conestoga Condors will take on Queen’s University this Wednesday at 7 p.m. and can be live streamed on their Twitch Channel. 

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Joe McGinty

About the Author: Joe McGinty

Joe McGinty is a multimedia journalist who covers local news in the Cambridge area. He is a graduate of Conestoga College and began his career as a freelance journalist at CambridgeToday before joining full time.
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