Esports club makes its debut at Iona College


Lea Carpanzano

Esports is one of the six new club sports that the college has introduced this year.

Giovanni Paolo Tagliafierro, Sports Editor

For David Valencia, video games have always been a passion. Working in the Information Technologies department at Iona College, he had seen first-hand the number of students that shared this passion.  


The Computer Science department at Iona witnessed the rise of esports at colleges, both nationally and in the local area, and has sought to form a team at the college for a number of years. These hopes came to fruition this fall, as Iona fields its first esports club in the school’s history with Valencia at the helm as the club’s director. 


The collegiate esports scene began in 2014 when it made its campus-debut at Robert Morris University in Chicago. Since then, over 175 colleges and universities have added esports to their varsity sports programs, according to the National Association of Collegiate Esports.  


Valencia hailed his fellow faculty members Lewis Derenzis and Anthony Scaccia as the engines behind Iona esports. Their continued advocacy helped the club secure an $80,000 grant from Ann Marie Schettini-Lynch, the senior vice president for finance and administration at Iona, to purchase all the gaming tech that the program needed.  


The immediate reception of the club on campus proved that this dedication was worth it. As of now, Iona esports has five competitive teams, along with an additional club of over 100 members. Valencia is pleased, but not at all surprised, by the energy that the club has already established.  


“They’re all excited to be a part of the program, even the ones who are not on the teams,” Valencia said in an interview. “They’re all willing to help out whenever they can.”  


The program is one of the newest members of the Electronic Gaming Federation, the national governing body of college and high school esports. Iona plays against other Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference teams within this league as well. 


Iona esports competes in five different games: “FIFA 22,” “Super Smash Brother Ultimate,” “Rocket League,” “Counter Strike: Global Offensive” and “Overwatch.” Tryouts were held early in the semester to determine the most skilled players in each game.  


The “FIFA 22” squad, led by captains Peter Cacsire and Ergys Tafaj, have put themselves at the top of the EGF standings through their first two games. They beat the reigning champion, St. John’s University, 9-2 in their last match on Oct. 11.  


Another squad that has stood out this year for Iona esports is the “Super Smash Brothers Ultimate” team. They most recently pitched a shutout against fellow MAAC opponent Niagara, blanking them 33-0.  


The “Smash” team is still adapting to the new format of competitive play, according to senior Jack Boles, who serves as the team’s moderator and helps prepare the lineup for their games. This unfamiliarity hasn’t stopped the team from performing at a high level, and Boles believes that the team will continue to improve as the season progresses.  


“Once we get our game plan going, especially after that win against Niagara, we have a lot more confidence in ourselves and in each other,” Boles said in an interview via Discord. “All that intimidation starts to not be a factor.”  


Iona’s “Rocket League” squad is another group at the top of the leaderboards in the early season. They have won their first two matches of the year and swept Niagara 3 games to none in their previous contest.  


The current EGF “Rocket League” format is three-versus-three, which puts an added importance on trust and synergy between teammates. Freshman captain Dylan Zerafa has been happy with how his team is improving on playing better as a unit from one match to the next.  


“We’re placing the emphasis on building chemistry,” Zerafa said via Discord. “I can definitely see we have gotten better at it already.”  


The “Counter Strike: Global Offensive” and “Overwatch” teams represent the two shooter-style games in the program for the Gaels. Both teams are looking to get more comfortable in the new style of competitive play, with their records sitting at 2-2 and 0-2 respectively. Both teams play 16-week seasons, so they have time to find their rhythm and improve their play over the course of EGF play.  


The new program has brought a new level of excitement into the gaming community at Iona amidst the growth of club sports in the fall semester. Both the student involvement and early success of the club could predict a bright future for Iona sports.