The Hangzhou Spark have enjoyed a solid start to Stage 3. The conversation surrounding them has changed significantly since the beginning of the season, and they’re shaping up to become the team people expected them to be from the start. Currently seated at seventh place in the standings with a 2-1 record, they’ll need to keep moving upwards to prove that they deserve more consideration among the league’s top dogs. Week 3’s games provide some solid challenges, and it’s the perfect time to see if the Spark can turn up the heat.
Vancouver Titans (4-0)
The Titans still have yet to drop a game in the regular season, and they look as dominant as ever so far this stage. Still, the Spark made them work hard for their Thursday night victory. After struggling through the control round on Oasis, they regrouped to pull off the win on Horizon Lunar Colony. From there, the two teams fought hard through Numbani and Havana, and any fight could have flipped the match in the Spark’s favor. As well as Hangzhou played, however, Vancouver reminded viewers why they’re still a head above the rest of the league. In an exciting and well-played match, the Titans came out with a 3-1 win.
Washington Justice (0-3)
Later in the week, the Spark headed to the other side of the standings and faced the Washington Justice. Despite facing many of the same problems they’ve faced all season, however, the Justice didn’t struggle as much as some people might think. They put up a good fight on Ilios and presented a strong defense on Paris, ending the latter map in a draw. After halftime, however, Hangzhou looked outright dominant, pulling out decisive wins on Hollywood and Watchpoint: Gibraltar. They finished out the series with a 3-0 victory.
Player of the Week: Kyeong-bo “GodsB” Kim
GodsB was named player of the match in the Washington game, and he certainly earned it. His more cautious playstyle balances out his teammates’ aggression without taking away from it, and he’s developed a skill for knowing just when to push in and finish off his opponents. This week gave him plenty of opportunities to square off against other solid Zarya players, facing Vancouver’s Min-Soo “SeoMinSoo” Seo and Washington’s Corey “Corey” Nigra. Throughout the week, GodsB performed well in these head-to-head matchups, while continuing to provide the consistent tank play that’s made him so vital to the team.
Opponent 1: Dallas Fuel (1-3)
The Fuel have yet to find their footing this stage, only managing a victory over the Washington Justice so far. After heavy losses to both the Vancouver Titans and the Chengdu Hunters in Week 2, they’re undoubtedly looking to get back on track. Between their match against the Spark and a rematch with Chengdu coming up, they have a tough week ahead, but high stakes will motivate them to come out swinging.
The key to a Spark victory in this matchup lies primarily in countering Dallas’ tank line. Even when the Fuel struggles, they can typically count on Min-seok “OGE” Son and Lucas “NotE” Meissner to pull off the big plays they need. Fortunately for Hangzhou, they have solid counterparts in Xu “guxue” Qiulin and Seong-wook “Ria” Park. If they can utilize their own tanks to their best potential while making sure to counter OGE and NotE specifically, the Spark can pull off a decisive win.
Prediction: Hangzhou wins 3-1
Opponent 2: Seoul Dynasty (3-1)
The Dynasty seem to have found their groove recently, rising both in the standings and in consideration for one of the league’s better teams. They can also make this a grudge match – they last faced the Spark at the end of Stage 2, where Hangzhou’s win denied Seoul a chance at stage playoffs. Between both teams’ improvements since then and the opportunity to get revenge, this game could be a particularly exciting showdown.
Similarly to their last showdown, the Spark can pull off the win if they’re prepared for any lineup Seoul throws at them. With a fully-stacked twelve-man roster, the Dynasty tend to rotate through their players throughout a match, depending on their specific needs. They’ve also integrated new pickups, Je-min “ILLICIT” Park and Sung-hyeok “Highly” Lee, players the Spark didn’t need to account for last time. Overall, however, Hangzhou has already proven that they can handle whatever Seoul brings out. As long as they don’t let their guard down against a team who wants revenge, they can come out on top here as well.
Prediction: Hangzhou wins 3-2
Player to Watch: Seong-wook “Ria” Park
Ria remains a consistent force on the Spark’s roster, often making space and facilitating flashy plays from his teammates. This week pits him against some accomplished D.Va specialists – NotE on the Fuel, and both Min-hyuk “Michelle” Choi and Joon-hyeok “zunba” Kim on the Dynasty. No matter the meta, a good D.Va player proves critical to a team’s success, and seeing how Ria stacks up this week will provide a good look into Hangzhou’s chances of continued success.
The Hangzhou Spark kick off Week 3 on June 20 with their match against the Dallas Fuel. Tune in to see if they can keep their climb up the rankings going.
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 Robert Paul for Blizzard Entertainment.
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