The Ashland University esports team will get its first taste of competition Friday and Saturday (Sept. 21-22) at the HUE Festival at Harrisburg (Pa.) University.
The Eagles' League of Legends and Overwatch squads will compete for a prize pool of $50,000 to be split among the winners of the two games.
The event will bring together 32 of the nation's top collegiate esports teams and is one of the largest college esports invitationals in the country.
"We're really excited to kick this off with a big event," said head coach Josh Buchanan. "For most sports, you really have your biggest competition at the end of the season, but for us, this is right at the beginning. More than anything, I want it to be motivational for the team, that they see the level of competition that exists and see how big collegiate esports is getting."
Thirteen student-athletes will represent the Eagles at the tournament, which will have pool play for each of the two games on Friday and the quarterfinals, semifinals and championship rounds on Saturday.
"The teams have been preparing very differently for the competition," Buchanan said. "We put a lot of trust in our team captains for League of Legends to sort out the team and help with communication. For League, we focused on individual play, making sure they perform individually, while for Overwatch we focused much more on communication as a team."
The event, sponsored by iHeart Radio, will also feature free live music from acts like Lit, Atlas Genius and Alien Ant Farm.
"It's the first collegiate esports to be partnered with a big-name music program like that, putting together a joint esports and music festival," Buchanan said. "It's a mix of club teams and varsity programs, but all really good programs. Thirty-two of the top 40 programs in the nation will be there. It will be a great opportunity for our students to get to know the other student-athletes. It's not as frequent you get to see everybody. It's one of the few times a year where our team gets to connect with other teams, learn from them and have fun."