South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

South St. Louis County News

St. Louis Call Newspapers

Notre Dame’s all-girls esports team combines fun, competition, community

Junior Megan Kelly smiles, decked out in her esports jersey and jacket, while playing Valorant. Photo courtesy of David Brosch.

Community. Silly. Belonging. Fun. Welcoming. Shenanigans. Loving.

To members of the team, these words are all synonymous with Notre Dame High School esports.

“We are extremely fortunate to be here,” junior Leslie Ponce said. “It’s an extremely amazing opportunity. I don’t have a PC at home, I can’t game at home, so it’s nice to know that I can come in here and have a good time. Like, if I’m stressed in school or something, I can just come in here and play games … And to know that we’re one of the first schools to do this – that makes it special.”

Esports – for those who don’t know – is short for “electronic sports,” and essentially is just that: an online, organized video game competition with a strict set of rules and specific guidelines. It operates similarly to most other high school sports– with junior varsity and varsity teams, captains for both and set matches against other nearby schools – but the competition takes place online rather than in person.

Junior Tori Barlowe plays Valorant at the second practice of the season, Jan. 16. Photo courtesy of David Brosch.

The games participated in vary by team. Notre Dame competes in two “first-person shooter games” – Overwatch and Valorant – which are both very popular in the esports community. Members of the Notre Dame team can choose to participate in both games as they are in separate seasons – fall and spring – though some choose to play just one. In the past, there was a third game option, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, however due to scheduling conflicts and declining interest in competing in the more “casual” game, it is no longer offered.

Though there are now several esports teams at high schools in the St. Louis area, Notre Dame was the first private school to form one, beating St. John Vianney High School and Christian Brothers College High School to it by just one semester.

“I wrote a grant proposal to the Innovative Technology Education Fund in 2018. We won the initial grant in 2019, for around $60k,” Notre Dame STEM Coordinator David Brosch said. “The idea behind it was that this would be a great way to have a STEM enrichment program. We wanted a way to engage girls and bring them to computer science, and a good way to do that is get them interested in computers. Coding itself can be dry, so we thought, well, maybe computer gaming would be a great way to introduce them to the world of PCs.”

Since the original grant was received by Notre Dame, the world of esports in St. Louis has grown exponentially. Despite the increasing interest, however, Notre Dame is currently still the only all-girls school who compete at a varsity level in the Missouri Scholastic Esports Federation – a statewide league of over 200 teams – as the newly-formed teams at Incarnate Word Academy and Ursuline Academy, the only other all-girls teams in the area, play small-school IWA brackets and JV, respectively.

“We compete against literally everyone and everything. There’s other girls and some co-ed, (but) it’s mostly all-boy (teams) that we compete against. So, like, SLUH, Vianney and CBC for the most part. It’s really fun to face up against those people because if we do good against them, we can brag about it forever,” junior Stella Noecker said. “(We’re) showing the world, like, women can do this too, girls can do this too. I think it’s showing the next generation (that) you can do whatever you want to do.”

“A lot of people, I guess, underestimate an all-girls school, like ‘oh, they’re just girls.’ (Winning) makes us feel good,” Ponce added.

Junior Olivia Barge helps freshman Hailey Painter play Valorant. Barge’s jacket, like everyone’s on the team, features her gamer tag. Photo provided by David Brosch.

Now going into their 10th season – as there are two seasons per year, one for Overwatch and one for Valorant – Notre Dame esports is ready for all that is in store. Starting the week of Feb. 12, JV matches will be every Tuesday at 4 p.m., and varsity matches will be every Thursday at 4 p.m. Matches are streamed at Visit @notredameesports on Instagram for more.

For girls interested in esports at any level, Notre Dame is holding its annual esports camp June 10-13, open to girls from fifth through 12th grade. The camp link, though not updated for 2024 yet is,