Stockton’s Rocket League esports team heading to world championships in Dallas

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The Stockton University esports team is heading to the Collegiate Rocket League World Championships for the second consecutive year.

The Ospreys won the North American Last Chance Qualifier on April 2 to earn a sport in the World Championships to be held June 2-4 in Dallas. Stockton will be among 16 teams competing for a share of $75,000 in scholastic awards. The field will consist of 10 teams from North America and six from Europe.

The top two teams at the qualifier advanced to the championships. Stockton beat Ball State 4-2 in the best-of-seven semifinals to ensure its berth in the June tournament. The Ospreys then beat St. Clair, of Canada, 4-1 to take the qualifier championship.

“It’s absolutely insane. I can’t expect to just make it to the finals every time,” sophomore John Merendino said, laughing, in a news release.

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Merendino and senior Brian Busse returned from the 2022 team and were joined this year by Anthony Cooper.

“In the last-chance qualifier, you can’t lose. It’s single-elimination, so you have to make the most of it. But we weren’t backing down to anyone,” Merendino added.

Last year, Stockton finished second at the World Championships to national power Northwood Blue from Northwood University (Michigan). The Ospreys shared $11,350 in prize money.

Their championship at the April 2 qualifying tournament followed an uneven regular season. Stockton went 29-31 overall, including 6-8 in the spring season. Both Busse, of Hazlet, and Merendino, of Long Island, New York, said the team’s struggles this spring has made a return trip that much more special.

“I think it takes some losses and some issues to happen to really learn from that and realize what we can fix to make ourselves better,” said Merendino, a business marketing major. “That’s what we needed.”

At the qualifier, Stockton needed to win four best-of-seven matches. In the third round, it won by a score of 4-2 the University of Texas-Dallas, which was 36-23 (10-4 spring). Stockton beat Universite Laval (Canada) 4-1 in the quarterfinals to advance to face Ball State.

Stockton was moments away from victory in Game 6 of that series when Ball State scored a game-tying goal to force overtime.

“It was a little tense in overtime. It was a little scary,” Cooper said.

But Cooper, a mathematics major from the Forked River section of Lacey Township, scored the winning goal 5 minutes and 39 seconds into the extra period.

“I was psyched. I jumped out of my chair,” said Cooper. “The adrenaline was pumping. It was dope.” 

Stockton esports program manager Demetrios Roubos said their performance shows the trio “has really just begun flexing their collective might.”

“They really showed they have what it takes, absolutely demolishing the competition,” Roubos said. “We’re extremely proud of the team. This accomplishment highlights the resilience, teamwork and determination of our students and reinforces the importance of providing an inclusive and supportive environment for students to develop their skills and explore their interests.”

Busse, a business major with a concentration in finance, said, “It honestly feels so great. It’s my last season, and I’ve put in a ton of work, like eight hours a day. I’m just happy that in the end we still get to go to worlds and hopefully win it this time.”

At the Worlds

The 16 teams competing in Dallas will be divided into four groups of four for the group stage. Within each group, teams will compete in a double-elimination bracket with each match a best-of-five series. The top two teams from each bracket will advance and be seeded into an eight-team, single-elimination bracket with the quarterfinals best of five and the semifinals and finals best of seven.

Check it out

To watch a replay of Stockton’s semifinal and final wins in the Last Chance Qualifier and to watch the CRL World Championships, go to the official Rocket League Twitch channel at

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