With NUEL’s Spring Varsity well and truly underway, now is a perfect opportunity to look back over the split so far. Despite some obvious disruptions (here’s looking at you, COVID-19), these Varsity teams have shown up, week after week, and gone toe to toe at the pinnacle of university esports. With returning favourites, veteran giants, and underperformers aplenty, it’s still all to play for in the NUEL Varsity Finals on the 15th of April.
Throughout the split, there have been a few key teams that have really stood out from the competition around them. With underdogs Portsmouth Paladins, Brighton Pirates and 4 Imports 1 Baegin putting up a hell of a fight throughout the round robin, and some of the scene’s most historic names in DMU T1, LoL.ex3 and Coventry Phoenix falling when it mattered most, now was not a time to place bets based on history. We even got to see a few legendary upsets right out of the gate- with 7th place finishers Arctic Foxes from the University of Liverpool pulling out a convincing victory against tournament favourites Grey Warwick, knocking the confidence of the team almost universally considered finalist material. Another surprising performance was that of the University of Exeter’s LoL.ex3, whose previous roster were 2019 Varsity champions. However, graduation of previous players meant the legacy of the team just couldn’t be maintained for another year, with the squad taking only five victories in their fifteen-game run.
With the round robin a distant memory, the cream of the crop had been well and truly selected- the best the UK had to offer would now have to do battle in an even more prestigious arena, for the chance to be crowned Varsity champions. Quarter finals rolled around, and despite a few technical difficulties (thank you, EU West servers) we got to watch our teams go head to head for that crucial semi-finals spot. With tournament underdogs Portsmouth Paladins facing off against tournament veterans Grey Warwick, and 4 Imports 1 Baegin battling for the honour of their fallen sister team Coventry Pheonix, tensions were high leading into these all-important matches. However, despite heroic performances throughout the tournament, the rookies couldn’t quite match the legacy of some of our most established teams- with Grey Warwick, Brunel Phantoms, Bristol Whipped and Cabbage Family all securing semifinals spots; although not without a fight.
By the time semi-finals rolled around, it looked as though Grey Warwick were set to bring the title home once again, despite a few strange losses at the start of the split. However, sometimes the burden of notoriety can be a curse- something which was discovered in their loss to the Brunel Phantoms. With a convincing 2-0 by the Phantoms, they secured their finals spot in spectacular style, and another 2-0 confirmed that the team meeting them there would be none other than Bristol Whipped. With the entirety of the UK University scene watching these teams, they managed to pull out some of their cleanest victories so far in the moment that it really mattered. Will they be able to replicate these performances for finals? If so, viewers had better prepare themselves for what are shaping up to be some of our most hotly contested finals yet- I promise you, you don’t want to miss this. Tune in to our official Twitch stream on the 15th of April at 19:15 to watch UK esports history in the making.