With eight teams heading off to Atlanta in Week 5, this coming week marks the end of the stage for everyone else. For the Hangzhou Spark, Week 4 provides some crucial opportunities. If they can come out on the other side without losing either of their two matches, they’ll finish the stage with a 6-1 record, pretty much guaranteeing a high seed in stage playoffs. Pairing that with a strong map differential could also put them in a good position to grab a spot in season playoffs. With that in mind, it’s time to look at what the Spark need to overcome if they want to get there.
Dallas Fuel (1-4)
Hangzhou’s match against Dallas proved interesting from the start, as the Fuel opted to debut their new main tank, Ash “Trill” Powell. For the most part, however, the Spark enjoyed a fairly straightforward game. Their struggles with assault maps continue to plague them, as Dallas forced a draw on Horizon Lunar Colony, but Hangzhou enjoyed decisive victories on their other maps. They finished out the evening with a 3-0 victory.
Seoul Dynasty (3-2)
After losing their Stage 2 playoffs spot to Hangzhou, Seoul hit the stage on Saturday hungry for revenge. The two teams engaged in a tense five-map showdown, with the Dynasty keeping the Spark on their toes by making the most of their twelve-man roster. Though Hangzhou was on top of things during the first half, Seoul’s player rotations tripped them up in the second, forcing the match into a tiebreaker. After a hard-fought series between two rising stars, the Spark came out on top with a 3-2 win.
Player of the Week: Hui-chang “BeBe” Yoon
Hangzhou’s support line had a real chance to shine this week, but BeBe’s performance deserves extra commendation this time around. He and Ho-jin “iDK” Park were a combined force to be reckoned with in the game against Dallas, pulling off impressive stalls and enabling their teammates’ bigger plays. BeBe especially popped off, however, in the match against Seoul. He earned special attention on Horizon Lunar Colony, where he single-handedly took out the Dynasty’s backline during a critical team fight. He and iDK were both recognized after the game for their performances, and there’s no doubt that they earned it this week.
Opponent 1: Los Angeles Valiant (4-1)
After bringing down the Vancouver Titans in perhaps the season’s biggest upset, the Los Angeles Valiant are riding high. Few teams in the league have experienced a resurgence as abrupt and as successful, and the Valiant have no doubt come a long way from their dismal Stage 1 showing. Integrating main tank Russell “FCTFCTN” Campbell into the starting lineup has worked wonders so far, and last week’s introduction of Johannes “Shax” Nielsen proved an excellent idea as well. The Valiant currently sit at rank five in the standings, just one spot below the Spark, and being the first team to deliver a regular season defeat to the Titans has to have provided a massive confidence boost.
Fortunately, the Spark have made vast improvements as well. The two teams last faced off in the first week of Stage 1, where Hangzhou barely came out on top with a 3-2 victory. In a way, this match gives both teams a chance to show off how far they’ve come since then, while battling it out to lock in a playoffs spot. Compared to Los Angeles’ quick uptick in performance, Hangzhou’s steadier improvements give them the edge in this matchup, but it will undoubtedly be a fight to watch.
Prediction: Hangzhou wins 3-2
Opponent 2: Florida Mayhem (1-3)
After finally pulling out a win this stage against the Houston Outlaws, it seems that changes are on the horizon for the struggling Florida Mayhem. Recent additions to the roster indicate that they’ve started determining what they want their identity to look like, and now they just need to make the new pieces click together. Their mystery of a roster and a confidence boost after their Week 3 victory both mean that the Spark should make sure they prepare for some curve-balls in this match.
In terms of performance so far, the Spark will likely have a straightforward game if they keep doing what they’ve been doing all stage. However, underestimating the Mayhem has cost teams before, and Hangzhou needs to ensure they take their opponent seriously. As long as the Spark don’t take the stage expecting an easy match, they can handle what Florida throws their way.
Prediction: Hangzhou wins 3-1
Player to Watch: Jae-hwan “Adora” Kang
Adora has largely flown under the radar this season, despite typically playing on the starting roster. The combined impact of mostly playing Brigitte and sharing stage time with Cai “Krystal” Shilong means that he tends to attract less attention. However, he’s recently become a playmaker in his own right, and fans have started to notice. Whether he’s setting up big plays for his teammates or moving in to fill the kill feed himself, Adora has improved right along with the rest of the Spark. For the last week of the stage, it’s worth keeping an eye on him to see just how much he’s grown since his Overwatch League debut.
The Hangzhou Spark kick off Week 4 on June 27 with their match against the Los Angeles Valiant. Tune in to see if they can finish out Stage 3 with a bang!
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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