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Final tryouts put together new Harrisburg eSports team

HARRISBURG, P.A. --- The newest team is nearly assembled.

Players from both home and abroad were vying Friday for one of 16 full-ride scholarships on the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology's eSports team.

Friday saw the final tryout for the Overwatch, Hearthstone, and League of Legends teams.

Chad Smeltz, eSports program director, said they started with around 500 players and, through separate tryouts, dwindled the number down to 35 players.

"[We're] talking to them about their habits in school, making sure that they're going to be happy in a major here at Harrisburg and making sure they're all set as students," said Smeltz.

29 of the final 35 represent students from around the United States while the remaining six were from international countries.

Smeltz said among the final 35, there were two hometown heroes, including incoming senior at Harrisburg University, Grayson O'Connell.

As a Hearthstone athlete, he said he never expected he'd, one day, get the chance of a full-ride scholarship to play the game.

"It's something that I do actively and am very passionate about and it's just so awesome that the same university that I attended for computer science is doing the same thing for eSports. I'm just very thankful I have the opportunity," said O'Connell.

Ritko Popovic, another Hearthstone athlete from Croatia, said Harrisburg University presents a unique opportunity not found in Europe.

"This is incredible to me because my country doesn't offer anything remotely similar to the technological level this faculty actually does," said Popovic.

Konrad Sopata, a League of Legends athlete from Poland, said he believes eSports while find its place among other sports in the future.

"It's just about getting adjusted and adapting to the current situation that eSports is a big thing, it's going to grow even harder and I feel like we're going to see Olympics and world championships, too," said Sopata.

Smeltz said they'll work on a quick turnaround after the tryouts and will set the team in a matter of days.

He also said all isn't lost for players who don't make the roster since they'll offer partial scholarships for their development teams.

He said they expect competition to begin for the new eSports team coming up in September.