The University of Maryland League of Legends team kept rolling Monday, defeating the University of Illinois 3-0 to win the inaugural Big Ten Network league championship.
The victory also earned Maryland an automatic berth into the 2017 League of Legends College Championship, which will be held May 26 through May 29.
The Big Ten Network partnered with Riot Games, the makers of League of Legends, earlier this year to form a league of 12 collegiate esports teams made up of students from Big Ten Conference schools. Maryland went 4-1 in the regular season and defeated Rutgers and Ohio State in the playoffs to advance and face Illinois in the finals, where Maryland swept the best-of-five series of games.
The BTN Finals were broadcast live on the Big Ten Network from their Los Angeles studio.
As one of five league champions, Maryland will play in the League of Legends College Championship alongside the winners of the uLoL Campus Series North, South, East and West leagues – Maryville University (Missouri), Texas A&M, the University of Toronto and Simon Fraser University (British Columbia, Canada). Illinois will compete for the three last spots in the finals with the other four league runners-up in a wild card tournament in April.
Last year, in the first collegiate League of Legends tournament sponsored by Riot, Maryland advanced to the semifinals of the 32-team uLoL Campus Series before being eliminated. Winston "tahx" Zhou, Jon "Yami" Yang and Martin "White" Kwan are among the players who returned from last year's team to lead Maryland in 2017.
In a TV interview after the win, Zhou said getting to play with the same group of friends has given him more confidence.
"Having people I can trust and talk to as human beings, and just having communication, it really helps," Zhou said. "Because when I look at other teams, they kind of feel like they go to work and they talk, but they don't really have any real-life experiences with each other."