After a rough second week, the Hangzhou Spark regrouped in hopes of improving their record. Although an opening match against the San Francisco Shock caused them trouble, they did pull out a win against the Los Angeles Gladiators, setting the stage for a comeback. The Spark play their last game of the stage this week, and it’s time to see if they can end things on a high note.
San Francisco Shock (3-2)
Despite some flubs along the way, the Shock have looked consistently strong this stage. For the most part, they looked as clean as ever when they took on the Spark. Though Hangzhou went up early in the series with a win on Ilios, and neither team looked particularly good on Hollywood, San Francisco pulled it together just in time.
The Spark looked more organized than they had in Week 2, but the Shock continued to polish their aggressive and aware playstyle. San Francisco took the series with a 3-1 victory.
Los Angeles Gladiators (1-4)
In their showdown with the Gladiators, the Spark seemed to finally begin learning from their mistakes. Keeping Xu “guxue” Qiulin at the helm, they organized around his more aggressive playstyle and generally did a better job at focusing on their targets. Between their improvements and the Gladiators’ struggle to find a foothold this stage, the Spark finally showed signs of their Week 1 performance. Hangzhou took the series 3-1.
Player of the Week: Ho-jin “iDK” Park
Lúcio specialist iDK continues to impress with his forward play-style and top-notch timing. His ability to enable an ultimate combo or a team-fight with a perfectly-timed boop has earned him plenty of praise since Week 1, and he’s still showing off those same skills. He appeared several times in the highlight reels this week, particularly for protecting fellow support Hui-chang “BeBe” Yoon during a crucial fight against the Gladiators. Even in the Spark’s tougher matches, iDK often stands out, demonstrating in full why he was one of Hangzhou’s most anticipated pickups.
Targeting Zen in the backline? #OWL2019
NOT ON @Hojin_idk's WATCH!
— Overwatch League (@overwatchleague) March 3, 2019
Toronto Defiant (3-2)
With no games for the Spark in Week 5, their Week 4 matchup against the Toronto Defiant closes out the stage. This a crucial game for both teams – Hangzhou currently sits a few spots below the playoffs cutoff, while Toronto sits just above it. At the point in the stage where the final standings come down to the map win, both teams will fight harder than ever for that chance at a playoffs run.
At this point in the stage, Toronto and Hangzhou appear evenly matched, setting the stage for an interesting showdown on Saturday. The Spark have the edge at the mechanical level, but the Defiant have had better success locking down their strategies. Toronto demonstrated a knack for focusing and eliminating damage-dealers in their match against Boston.
In order to weather the storm, the Spark will need to either pump resources into keeping their heavy hitters (namely, guxue and Kyeong-bo “GodsB” Kim) in the fight, or build a plan to deal with team fights without them. If the Spark can build on what they showed in their match against the Gladiators, they’ll come out on top. However, Toronto has been building on these strategies from the beginning, which will probably serve them better. In any case, expect a close and hard-fought match between two teams with something to prove.
Prediction: Toronto wins 3-2
Player to Watch: Hui-chang “BeBe” Yoon
The Toronto-Hangzhou game is especially interesting when considering the one-to-one matchups it provides. As the Spark’s resident Zenyatta player, BeBe will be squaring off against Toronto’s Se-hyeon “Neko” Park. Coming off of his three-game suspension, Neko is settling in nicely on the stage, and took the opportunity to shine against his former team last week. BeBe, for his part, has stood out as well, frequently lighting up the kill feed while still enabling his frontline. Keep an eye on BeBe this week to see how his results compare to Neko’s, and to see if he can keep making a name for himself.
The Spark close out Stage 1 on March 9 with a match against the Toronto Defiant. Tune in to see if they can end the regular stage with a strong finish.
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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