Esports Fortnite team begins season ranked No. 5 in nation


Evan Laux

Ashland University was the first college in the nation to offer a scholarship for the video game Fortnite

Mason Jones

The Ashland University’s Esports Fortnite team is off to a promising start as it was ranked No. 5 out of 300 teams throughout the nation in preseason polls, which were ranked by the Collegiate Starleague.

With just one year of play after the inauguration of the Ashland Esports team, their players are certainly making a name for themselves in the world of competitive gaming.

Better yet, since there were no seniors that graduated out of the Fortnite team last spring, the team still has all of its core players. The small but powerful roster includes: senior Alec Mueller, juniors Gabriel Alonso and Chris Smith, sophomores Michael Krohn, Brant McAdams, and River Wheeler and freshman Mikah Juma and Lucas Ratcliff.

“We didn’t get to play in the playoffs last year, but we had a lot of collegiate tournaments that had teams that played very, very well,” Fortnite team captain Michael Krohn said. “The whole year I was saying ‘we’re going to be the best, I want to be the best and I want you guys to want to be the best.’ That was kind of the mentality I was trying to put into the team and it seemed like it has impacted the other teammates a lot.”

Although the team was unable to make the official playoffs last season, the team still believes it has a high chance of making them this year due to everyones’ efforts and the time spent practicing for the competitions that await.

“We go through a lot of different practice cycles, there are times where we practice four days a week or three days a week, but what we found that works best for Fortnite is that we have two days of team practice a week where we mainly focus on sharing information,” head Esports coach Josh Buchanan said. “We have everybody give their teammates things to work on, so when they go back to their dorm or have free time outside of class they can work on those things that were discussed and improve on their gameplay individually.”

Buchanan is entering his second year as head coach, with Travis Yang as the assistant head coach.

“As a coach for Fortnite, it is kind of heart wrenching sometimes,” Buchanan said. “Fortnite is one of those games that requires super-duper high skill, but there is also some luck involved, like where you drop into the map and what items you get. There are times where your team could run into really good players and not get as many eliminations.”

Last year the Collegiate Starleague used the elimination style for scoring Fortnite competitions, where the winner was decided based on what team had the most player-eliminations in a particular game. Teams played for the best two of three games.

This year, there will be custom made lobbies for Fortnite, and a specific division where everyone queues up to play solely other colleges or teams without the contact of random players.

Buchanan is the head coach for all Esports teams, including Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Overwatch, Hearthstone, League of Legends, Fortnite and Counter Strike. While all games are played online, there are some facilities that are used for larger tournaments and playoff play.

According to Coach Buchanan, there are two in-person events for Fortnite and several more for the other games in the program.

A lot of the scene centers around what the creators of Fortnite, Epic Games provides, according to Buchanan. The schedule is sporadic, since things can pop up at any time throughout the season. The season officially began on Oct. 27, however it is hard to pinpoint upcoming games and tournaments due to the nature of the Fortnite season schedule.

Finalists of the CSL Fortnite Competition will be invited to the Collegiate Starleague LAN finals at the end of the season. The finalists will compete for a $25,000 prize pool.

Two weeks into the season, the Eagle Fortnite team is continuing to practice for the challenges that await them this year.

“I usually come in early and work on mechanics first like aiming, then live gameplay, and then I’ll be ready to go,” Fortnite team captain Michael Krohn said. “I also listen to music to get me into the groove to play. It helps a lot.’’

With a high preseason ranking early on, a skilled set of players and a supportive coach, the Eagle Fortnite team is planning on having a promising year.