The NJCAA and National Esports Collegiate Conference (NECC) are taking notice.

Kapiko’s Valorant team, currently in the midst of a 3-1 start to its season, are currently ranked fifth in the Collegiate Valorant Hub Top 30 rankings, a poll generated in conjunction with the NECC. Since those rankings were released Oct. 1, the Buccaneers have taken their top-5 status as a challenge.

“Our goal is to be number one, to be at the top,” freshman Valorant competitor Khanh Dewey said. “Our goal is to beat everyone we play. There’s no pressure; we know what we’re capable of and we just want to reach our goals. That starts with being at the top and then going on to win a national championship.”

University of House Premier is ranked number one overall, while Northwood University, Texas A&M University Maroon, and the University of St. Thomas make up spots two through four, respectively. 

Based on recent results, a shakeup could be in the works. 

Blinn’s Valorant team, made up of Khanh, sophomores Austin Ray and Dylan Gerlach, and freshmen Hayden WhitakerAdam Laamoumi, and Shawn Fox, already owns victories over UH Premier and TAMU Maroon, both of which came during a 6-0 run for the Bucs in the Red Bull Campus Clutch qualifying competition in early October. 

The Bucs’ lone loss this fall came at the hands of St. Thomas.

Blinn’s big wins, however, further justify its title aspirations, which began with a successful 2022 spring campaign. Last spring, the Buccaneers ended their season with a 9-0 record in NJCAA Esports Group 4 and qualified for the NJCAA Esports playoffs. The Bucs reached the quarterfinals of the 16-team tournament.

“Coming into this season, we were expecting to be one of the top teams in the nation,” Kapiko said. “All of our players are extremely talented. We know it, and others in the collegiate scene know that as well, now. I think we’ve put a lot of teams and the collegiate scene as a whole on notice.”

Kapiko said the foundation established since the Valorant team began play two seasons ago has set the stage for new achievements.

“We’ve had a lot of success overall, with every year seeing us move further and push things further along,” Kapiko added. “Going forward, we’re just looking to push from being a team that’s constantly in the top-8 area, to being a team that is a national championship-winning team.”

Kapiko said the Collegiate Valorant Hub should issue a new set of rankings in late October when Collegiate Valorant (the official seasonal competition sponsored by Valorant developer Riot Games) kicks off. 

Regardless of where Blinn sits when the new poll is released, the Bucs say they will remain focused on finishing first at the end of the season, whether they reach the peak of the top 30 or not.

“Being ranked high is always a great achievement. The players we have on this team, we expect something like this,” said Whitaker. “We believe we deserve to be where we are right now and maybe even higher. But we’re focused on the end goal — a national title. We want to be better than the teams before us, and we want to strive to be the best team Blinn has had. We’re trying to win out, and anything short of a national championship I think would be a letdown for us.”

Blinn has competed in intercollegiate athletics since 1903 and captured 42 NJCAA national championships since 1987.