Last week’s results did not bear well for the Hangzhou Spark going into this months tournament, the Summer Showdown. Touted as one of the top teams in the APAC region before their set of matches last week, the Spark failed to live up to those expectations and fell to the sixth seed. While their seeding in this tournament is worse than what they earned in the May Melee bracket, it all was the result of a 0-6 map difference from that week.
This weekend, however, Hangzhou looks to truly take off in what will be a rematch of the ages against the New York Excelsior. Can the team bounce back and rekindle the debut magic of Week 20?
#3 New York Excelsior
The last time Hangzhou was in a first-round series, they lost to the Seoul Dynasty in a 3-0 fashion. This was a #4 vs. #7 seed matchup where the Spark routed the Dynasty in their own 3-0 sweep a few weeks prior. As déja vu would present itself, Hangzhou has once again landed a quarterfinals matchup, this time against the deep-pocketed NYXL.
In the Spark’s Week 20 preview, it was stated that “Haksal changes everything.” And yes, Haksal does bring a new element to a strong Excelsior roster, but the actual story of the matchup was triple-debut of Architect, QoQ, and M1KA. Rather than an inevitable win by the XL, a trigger-happy Architect, RunAway-alumni QoQ, and a bench-laden M1KA all led the Spark to a surprising 3-2 win. It was a statement for the team, that they were here to take a top spot in the region with a new look. Since then, however, the Spark have looked like their old selves. Almost as if the honeymoon period of the debuts wore off just 24 hours later against the Charge.
Like previously stated, this quarterfinals matchup is very similar to the one the Spark faced in the May Melee tournament. When Hangzhou faced the Dynasty in qualifiers, they played at an elite level. At the tournament, Seoul got the better of the Spark. The Spark then were able to maneuver their way to a solid victory against the NYXL in Week 20. Now in the first round of the Summer Showdown, the Pink and Blue need to prove that they stay consistent when given this similar opportunity.
— Hangzhou Spark (@Hangzhou_Spark) July 1, 2020
In a recent tweet, the Spark made it public that they’ve been working hard to improve on what has been a disappointing few games for the team in their last stretch. Most fans would expect this to be a normal thing for the team, but this feels different. It is a statement that they can’t be satisfied with just being touted as a top team in the APAC region; they need to be a top team in the APAC region. These late-night reviews and “1 on 1 advice…on strategy and positioning.” are exactly what it takes to find that “spark” again.
History shows Hangzhou can’t follow through. It will be exciting to see if they can shock the system.
Prediction: Excelsior win 3-2
Featured Image Courtesy of the Hangzhou Spark
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