The Hangzhou Spark came out swinging in an exciting conclusion to the regular stage. With a decisive victory over the Seoul Dynasty, they locked in the seventh seed for stage playoffs, joining the Shanghai Dragons in representing China there. It’ll be a long journey if the Spark hope to make it to finals, but it’s time to look at where they’ll start.
Seoul Dynasty (3-4)
With both teams vying for the last spot in playoffs, it went without saying that they would fight hard to come out on top. After struggling to find their footing on Lijiang Tower, the Spark showed up in full. Though the rest of the maps were close, Hangzhou consistently found a way to pick apart their opponents and gain the upper hand. The Spark took a 3-1 victory and secured their first playoffs showing.
Player of the Week: Ho-jin “iDK” Park
Throughout the stage, iDK has proven why he’s an integral part of the Spark roster, and he once again got a chance to shine against the Dynasty. He’s improved at balancing his aggression with his team’s needs, and he knows when to fall back and when to sneak around for those crucial boops. He’s gained plenty of recognition through Stage 2 as one of the Spark’s brightest stars, and the rest of the season will certainly give him further chances to rise in the ranks among the league’s support players.
Opponent 1: London Spitfire (6-1)
As the Atlantic Division champions for the stage, the London Spitfire secured second seed for playoffs, meaning that they’ll start off against the seventh-seed Hangzhou Spark. After a sluggish start to the season, the Spitfire seem to have returned to full form, only dropping a match in an upset against the Chengdu Hunters. As the meta slowly becomes more flexible, their strongest players have had more chances to shine, and the team as a whole looks organized and ready to take on the playoffs challenge.
Still, the match isn’t unwinnable for the Spark. Their only two losses this stage have been to the Vancouver Titans and the San Francisco Shock, undoubtedly the strongest two teams in the league right now. Like London, Hangzhou has trended upwards after a shaky start to the season. Their win over the Dynasty not only locked in their playoffs spot, but also confirmed that they’ve put the pieces together to create a much stronger team. Expect a strong showing from both sides of the match, no matter who comes out on top.
Prediction: Hangzhou wins 3-2
If the Spark come out on top, their semifinal matchup depends solely on who else makes it through. Unless the Shanghai Dragons upset the San Francisco Shock, Hangzhou will be the lowest remaining seed. This would nearly guarantee that they face the Shock next. Considering San Francisco’s dominance this stage, the Spark’s playoffs journey most likely ends in semifinals, but there have certainly been stranger upsets before. In the end, the rest of the bracket will just have to unfold.
Player to Watch: Seong-wook “Ria” Park
Ria has served as one of the most consistent parts of the Spark’s roster throughout the season, both enabling massive plays and pulling off a few of his own. His first playoffs appearance will give him a chance to keep showing off his skills, while also pitting him against London’s Jun-ho “Fury” Kim. Fury ranks among the best off-tanks in the league at the moment, with consistently strong plays and a ridiculous tendency to eat Graviton Surges. Ria will need to bring his best to compete with him, but the resulting head-to-head matchup should be one to keep an eye on.
The Hangzhou Spark begin their playoffs journey on May 9, when they look to bring down the London Spitfire. Tune in to see if they can make it on to semifinals.
Follow Darby on Twitter @soundchecck! She is happy to talk about anything she’s written! You can also get in touch with her on Discord (soundchecck#7242).
Featured image courtesy of the Hangzhou Spark.
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