Savannah Durant is the co-captain of Iona University’s Valorant esports team, who, in addition to leading her team into battle, is also leading the charge for more women gamers to get involved in college esports.
“I first started gaming when I was about 11,” says the Iona University senior. “My father and my older brother used to play video games a lot, and one day I decided to go on my mom’s desktop in the living room and just start downloading a bunch of games, and from there I just couldn’t stop. You couldn’t get me off that computer.”
Durant shares that she wasn’t really “involved on campus before the esports team.” But when she got an email about the esports team, she was immediately interested.
Valorant, Durant’s game of choice, is a first-person shooter game where there are two teams made up of about 20 agents, each with their own ability and role. Durant’s role, as a “sentinel,” is making sure that the opposing team isn’t attacking from behind.
Beyond her in-game role, Durant has her team’s back in more ways than one. After pushing for the school to start a Valorant team, Durant serves as the co-captain, a position that involves going over match reviews, scouting the other teams, and going through plays and lineups. “I used to play these games for fun,” shares Durant. “But now that I play at a collegiate level, I have to lock in and focus and try and win.”
While Durant thrives as a captain, she earned her title overcoming the odds, especially considering that she’s a woman in a male-dominated sport. Durant shares that at first there were going to be separate men’s and women’s teams for Valorant, but when there weren’t enough women to field a team, she “decided to join the teams together and play co-ed.”
“It’s very hard to be a woman in esports,” she says. “I was the only girl at the time to make a team, and I was like ‘I have to prove myself.’” Durant eventually battled her way into the starting lineup, an achievement that was “empowering,” and started down a path to the top of the ranks, giving her a podium that she uses to empower other women to play.
“I do really hope that I inspire other women to join,” she says, proudly sharing that as the president of the esports club, she made sure that there were other women officers on the board. “I really wanted to welcome them and have them be part of this organization and this team, just so that we can all flourish together as women,” Durant says.
To Durant, esports is more than just a group of friends playing video games. “This is a real sport, and it’s fun to be a part of a community of people, not just a single team,” she says. “Everyone is just so connected to each other.”
But even with all the responsibility that she has, both as a team captain and as a woman in esports, Durant also loves that gaming provides an escape from the stresses of the real world.
“I love gaming,” Durant says proudly. “Gaming is where I can just sit down, relax, and just unwind.”
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