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Something new is always happening in NACE. Though many teams have repeatedly reached the top brackets of Starleague, there is strong potential for the 2023-2024 NACE season to have some unexpected contenders. Today we examine a few of these rising stars, and how their qualities could help catapult them to NACE success.

Oklahoma Christian University Esports

OC logo

Oklahoma Christian University (OC) Esports shocked the NACE scene when they exploded to the Grand Finals in Spring 2023 Starleague. OC Esports not only won the Starleague season but also emerged victorious against the St. Clair Saints, an extremely strong team who have been Grand Finalists and Quarterfinalists for the past two seasons. The team placed within the top 16 of the College Valorant Championship (CVAL), RIOT’s official collegiate VALORANT circuit. To top it off, OC Esports won the NECC Valorant Nationals.

A rise through Starleague this meteoric is unprecedented. In OC’s games, aces and sweeps are regular occurrences. Their swift and consistent improvement coupled with a mechanically coordinated team (including stars such as Instxnct, GLYPH, and ENTRI) makes OC Esports a deadly opponent. With such rapid progress and so many accomplishments within a short time, the team will likely only continue on its winning streak and pose a serious threat to NACE’s other top contenders.

Irvine Valley

Irvine lasers

Irvine Valley Esports performed impressively in the Fall 2023 and Spring 2023 NACE Starleague seasons. The team reached the best of 16, dueling Mizzou Esports in Fall 2022 and FIU Varsity in Spring 2023. Though the team has yet to reach Quarterfinals, their consistency is an indicator that further progression through Starleague is not simply a possibility, but a matter of time.

Star players BoLa, volk, and PeachCobbler have been significant in Irvine’s ‘22 and ‘23 Starleague seasons. All three players consistently secure chain kills against their opponents. The team is also extremely flexible — no one player remains constrained to a single role. Irvine’s players are comfortable and capable, switching from Sentinel to Duelist to everything in between. This gives them a unique advantage: Irvine has mastered the abilities of all agents and fully understands how to utilize and counter them.

UMD Premier

Maryland Esports

UMD Premier, hailing from the University of Maryland, reached Quarterfinals in Fall 2022 Starleague and Best of 16 in Spring 2023 Starleague. Bind and Split are UMD’s strongest maps, with 100% (of two games) and 67% win rates respectively. Their Defender side is notably strong on all maps. Interestingly, UMD’s Bind composition contains two smoke agents– Astra and Viper. They are adept at preventing pushes and punishing with utilities such as Viper mollies and Raze grenades.

Yexs and Nahr Alma are strong assets to the team. Yexs excelled as duelist during the Fall ‘22 season and scored an impressive ace against West Virginia University. Meanwhile, Nahr Alma fragged consistently on Viper and Chamber. As of Spring ‘23 Starleague, Nahr Alma has taken up the duelist role instead, with very promising results. UMD Premier’s duelists and smokes are both comfortable with fragging and engaging in fights. If UMD’s attack can equal their impressive defense, they could very well climb to the top of Starleague in the 2023-2024 season.

Mizzou Esports

Mizzou Esports

Mizzou Esports reached Quarterfinals in the Fall 2022 and Spring 2023 NACE Starleague seasons. In CVAL North’s Spring tournament, Mizzou has reached both Grand Finals and Lower Finals. Mizzou boasts an impressive 83% win rate on Fracture, along with 68% on Pearl and 67% on Breeze.

P I G G Y is strong on smokes and Conch excels on Sentinel. Especially on Chamber, Conch is a formidable fragger. With recent Chamber buffs making him more meta in pro play, it’s likely that Conch could prove to be a strong asset. Other Sentinels such as Viper and Killjoy have faced nerfs, meaning that many teams have to reevaluate the viability of their compositions. Mizzou is already used to a team comp centering around Chamber on certain maps. For this reason, the next NACE season might be Mizzou Esport’s time to shine.

Boise State

Boise state logo

As a Quarterfinalist in Fall 2022 and best of 16 in Spring 2023, Boise State has demonstrated exceptional team coordination. Focusing on util-heavy comps, they almost always opt for an Initiator or Controller instead of a second Duelist. Breach, KAY/O, Omen and Sova are mainstays. Rereiana, aldm, and Jbag use the utility of these agents — such as Skye and Omen flashes — to their teammates’ advantage.

Bind and Split are Boise’s strongest maps. Having extra deny utility and flashes as opposed to a second duelist makes them better able to control crucial mid areas. In addition, Bind and Split are notorious for their close angles. Flashes and info utilities like Sova drones and Skye wolves are essential for a retake and push in such a situation. Boise’s composition is designed to cater to their strengths, and if utilized correctly they have serious Starleague potential.

In Starleague, anything can happen. Stay tuned for the 2023-2024 season, which will undoubtedly be filled with more twists, turns and VALORANT surprises!

Written by Gabby DeSena

This article was created as part of an internship collaboration with NACE