Novi esports competes against Warren De La Salle in the MHSEL spring state semifinals on April 27 at Oakland University.

Novi esports competes against Warren De La Salle in the MHSEL spring state semifinals on April 27 at Oakland University.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Novi esports turns in ‘most successful year’ at MHSEL state finals

By: Jonathan Szczepaniak | Novi Note | Published June 7, 2024


NOVI — Novi esports’ Valorant team was in the mode of the 2007 New England Patriots all season, eyeing perfection and dismantling any team that was in their way.

In the Michigan High School Esports League spring state finals, the Wildcats were primed to show just how dominant they really were.

A perfect regular season and being ranked No. 1 in the state is great, but it’s about winning when the lights are brightest.

Unlike the 2007 Patriots, Novi capped off its historic Valorant season with a state championship title on April 24, cementing its title as the strongest Valorant squad in the state of Michigan.

Valorant is a 5v5, first-person shooter game that requires players to work together and strategize in order to defeat enemy opponents. Matches are a best of three and the winner is crowned by reaching 13 wins the fastest.

“I think one of the most important things to remember was this was the first actual season for Valorant in Michigan Esports — the spring season was — but our school has had an active Valorant team for over two years,” Novi esports head coach Christopher White said. “We’ve been participating in a few other national leagues for Valorant and have had some pretty serious success. We were third place in the HSEL (High School Esports League) Spring Major last year, which put us in third place in a nationwide group of teams. We had a lot of experienced seniors on the team that had been competing and playing together for years.”

One of the experienced seniors was Ravit Chandra, who was named Player of the Year in Valorant. The Valorant squad featured four seniors out of its six team members, but it was freshman Sarthak Tayal who was atop the leaderboards in the state finals matchup.

Tayal had been playing Valorant with Chandra since middle school and said the team’s communication played a vital part in its success this season.

“There’s things like trackers where we can see their custom games and see what they play, what agents they’re good at, what they like to run, and what maps they’re good at especially,” Tayal said. “Off of that, we usually choose map bans and stuff. Strategizing as a whole, we usually have one person that calls out communications. Let’s say there’s someone on A site and our captain is at B or C, they’ll say, OK, you two set up here and get ready for the push up.’” We’re really coordinated that way.”

Novi’s Splatoon 3, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, and Overwatch 2 teams didn’t have the rankings or season records to match up with the Valorant squad, but they came together as units and put on impressive performances in their respective brackets.

Splatoon, who was ranked No. 11 in the tournament, finished as the runner-up, while both Overwatch 2 (ranked No. 10) and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (ranked No. 10) both reached the final four.

White said the Splatoon 3 squad was motivated by past state tournament experiences.

“For them, I think it was wanting to avenge some seasons that kind of took a poor direction in the playoffs,” White said. “Up until this year, our varsity Splatoon had not managed to win a playoff game even though we’ve had better rankings than 10 in the playoffs before. We’ve been in the top eight and even in the top four before. Historically, I think we just put a little too much pressure on ourselves in some of our past playoff attempts. This year, we kind of made a pact in the beginning of the spring that we were going to change our attitude and our mentality. In a weird way, we almost lowered expectations. We made our goal not achieving top four or whatever, but just to make it to the playoffs and win our first playoff game.”

Splatoon 3 is a 4v4, third-person shooter that emphasizes team communication and game knowledge with its different game modes, maps and characters.

“It’s a lot more complicated than most shooter-type games, because with other shooter-type games, they have a various assortment of just guns,” junior Nimona McKone said. “With Splatoon, there’s a lot of things that aren’t just guns. There’s a paint brush, paint roller, and buckets that throw ink at you. It’s a lot more difficult to truly understand the complexities of weapon versus weapon because there’s so many different play styles with all the weapons. It takes a lot of research.”

Overwatch 2, a 5v5, first-person shooter, and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate were both able to play their semifinals matchups on April 27 at Oakland University, a gaming experience unlike any other.

“Compared to playing at home or a (local area network) center, the environment is a little more different,” junior Daniel Han said. “It’s a little more intense. You reach the top and the pinnacle of the league you’re playing in, so I feel that although it can be a little nerve-wracking, I feel it’s a lot more liberating because you’re not held up in your room playing Smash Brothers like ages 13 and up. It really feels like a competitive sports environment.”

Han is a two-time state semifinalist, and with another year left of high school esports in him, there would be no surprise if he made it back one more time before it’s all said and done.

The Novi esports program, as a competitive gaming group, has been around since the 2021-2022 school year, and White said he feels this was the best year yet.

“In overall results, this was probably our most successful year,” White said.

Novi team members for each game:
• Overwatch 2: Brandon Burns (senior), Elbert Zhang (sophomore/all-state honoree), Srijan Kundu (freshman), Dallon Odeneal (sophomore), Anik Roy (sophomore), Smit Patil (sophomore), Alvaro Hernandez (junior), Brandon Salo (sophomore).

• Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Brian Jiang (senior), Daniel Han (junior), Brandon Mijal (junior), Luke Guiboux (senior/all-state honoree).

• Splatoon 3: Nimona McKone (junior/all-state honoree), Evan Marshall (junior), Andrew Van Nortwick (sophomore), Brian Dragoo (senior), Brooke Mirabitur (senior).

• Valorant: Ravit Chandra (senior/Player of the Year), David Niu (senior), Alex Lee (senior), Christine An (senior), Sarthak Tayal (freshman), Shashank Cheedella (sophomore).