The Charger Blog

University’s Rocket League Esports Team Takes Aim at a Deep Run in League Playoffs

Known as “soccer with cars,” Rocket League is a wildly competitive esport that the University’s team members say takes hours and hours to master, combining split second decision making with deft mechanics and a true sense of collaboration among teammates.

September 14, 2022

By Jackie Hennessey, Contributing Writer

Alesandro Martinez (center) and members of the Rocket League.
Alesandro Martinez (center) and members of the Rocket League.

When Alesandro Martinez ’24 decided to attend the University of New Haven, he knew he wanted to join a club or team so he could meet some new friends and immediately feel part of the community. A notice online about esports and the Rocket League team caught his eye.

In high school he was a casual gamer – mixing it up with friends and taking part in online competitions – but his primary focus had been on his studies and playing varsity soccer. One of his favorite games was Rocket League – the game known as “soccer with cars.”

“It’s super fast paced,” Martinez says. “While its concept is a simple one, people say it’s one of the hardest games to master and I liked that challenge. The summer before my first year, I emailed the coach and said 'Hey, can I try out?' The traditional way to get involved is for a head coach to reach out to you directly to recruit you, so I guess you could call me a walk-on.”

‘There’s so much that goes into it’

When he wasn’t in his criminal justice classes or doing course work, Martinez spent hours honing his Rocket League skills – practicing, scrimmaging with others, and reviewing the matches – “like watching film for traditional sports.

“Basically, there’s how you move your car, in-game aerial training, shooting, and decision making,” he says. “There’s so much that goes into it. To get used to making these millisecond split decisions takes thousands of hours of practice.”

By the second semester of his first year, Martinez was named team captain.

Bryson Gundry, coach of the University’s Rocket League and Call of Duty teams and a practitioner in residence in esports in the Sport Management Department in the Pompea College of Business, says players have to master the mechanical and mental aspects of the game. “Rocket League is a very fast-paced game,” he says. “There isn’t time to stop and think, so players need to have great awareness and communication to compete at the top.”

Left to right: Matthew Windsor ’24, Alesandro Martinez, and Glenn Scott ’26.
Left to right: Matthew Windsor ’24, Alesandro Martinez, and Glenn Scott ’26.
‘An amazing opportunity’

The esports scene at the University is a vibrant one, Martinez says, and his team feeds off the energy when they are practicing in “The Stable,” the 1,330-square-foot esports training and competition center in the Bergami Center for Science, Technology, and Innovation.

Alesandro Martinez.
Alesandro Martinez.

Rocket League is one of six esports teams at the University – Call of Duty, Valorant, Overwatch, Halo, and League of Legends being the others. Each have three varsity players and three academy or JV players. The teams offer each other a lot of support, and the excitement that builds during matches and training is infectious, the players and Coach Gundry say.

“Coming from a university where the entire esports program was run by students, I quickly found it's truly an amazing opportunity to see these players be able to compete for the University of New Haven,” Professor Gundry says. “Having full support from the University directly is a massive upside in the huge world that esports encompasses. The matches are extremely fun to watch, much like traditional sports matches.”

‘That’s why I love it’

Esports continues to grow as a global phenomenon. In a May 2022 piece in Forbes magazine, Brett Knight wrote that according to game data from the firm Newzoo, “the global esports audience was on track to reach 532 million this year, including 261 million “esports enthusiasts” who watch esports content more than once a month.” Knight noted that the NFL’s 2022 Super Bowl “drew an average of 112 million viewers, according to NBCUniversal.”

"As the pandemic unfolded, the University community turned out regularly online to support the Rocket League team and being part of that did so much to make the pandemic less isolating," Martinez says. "It helped that one of his teammates was his roommate and another lived next door."

“My first year, during COVID, we were playing in our dorms, and one teammate was next to me and the other was in the room over, and we were playing Rutgers University,” Martinez says.

They were into their fifth overtime in the game, and the main Twitch stream had 300 people tuned in, and “all our friends were watching. I remember passing to a teammate…then he put it away, and I was yelling as loud as I could. That crazy reaction of happiness and release – that’s why I love it.”

Matthew Windsor ’24, a varsity member of the Rocket League.
Matthew Windsor ’24, a varsity member of the Rocket League.
‘Helps me strive toward my goals’

Professor Gundry says that kind of connection within the University’s esports community makes an impact on team success.

“I believe having an atmosphere where they are not only teammates, but also friends, creates a healthy environment, and opens the door for many discussions and areas we can improve on,” he says. “When I bring up an idea, or point out a flaw in gameplay, none of the players are afraid to voice their own opinions and ideas, and this leads to an organic conversation that allows us to grow as competitors.”

The esports teams play year-round. Early in September, they finished filling out rosters. The three varsity Rocket League players are Martinez, Matthew Windsor ’24, and Glenn Scott ’26.

The team will play in at least two collegiate leagues this year and they opened their season against the University of Southern Mississippi on September 6. This season they’ll face teams including Sacred Heart University, Rutgers, the University of Central Florida, the University of Florida, and the University of Michigan.

Windsor, an electrical engineering major, who plays trumpet in the University’s Marching Band, says balancing it all can take some serious scheduling, but he says he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“What I love best about competing for the University is the support,” Windsor says. “Having the support of a director, coach, teammates, and even other teams, helps me strive toward my goals while having fun doing so.”

‘We came together as a team’

Windsor says the team will build from two particular moments from last season. “The first was losing to a team we felt we should not have lost to,” he says. “The feeling of disappointment I felt made me realize how much I care about the team and my teammates. We came together as a team and improved from that experience which led us to the next moment.”

Matthew Windsor.
Matthew Windsor.

That next moment – that Windsor and Martinez remember so well – was when they took on Northwood University of Midland, Michigan – a team that’s won numerous national titles, has professional players on the roster, and, in July, was named National Program of the Year by the National Association of Collegiate Esports.

“We took the number one team in the collegiate scene to a game five, which felt so euphoric,” Windsor says. “Even though we lost, that match made me realize how good a team we were and showed the bond we made throughout the year.”

The team has its sights on making a deep run in their league playoffs and in the Collegiate Rocket League championships. Just 16 college teams qualify for the national championships, and those teams typically have professional players on their rosters. Nonetheless, Martinez says, “This year, that’s the goal.”

Rocket League matches can be streamed on www.Twitch.Tv/HeyImMartzy. Later this semester, the team hopes to have a broadcast team offering color commentary on live streams. You find the team online – Alesandro Martinez’s online user name is HeyImMartzy, Matthew Windsor is Windsyyy, and Glenn Scott is Auryx. Updates on the matches can also be found at