Finally, the Spark did it. They won a game at a tournament.
Not only did the Spark break the round one curse a couple of weeks ago at the Countdown Cup, but they also made it to the Finals. Firstly, their games against the Dynasty were as close as anyone could have predicted. The anime effect came into full force as the team was able to pull off the reverse sweep against Seoul when the game looked all but over for Hangzhou. From there, the Spark went on to face the surging Hunters. This was a team that dominated the current meta. For many teams, they couldn’t handle the unorthodox play in the game’s current state. But in a matchup that favored Chengdu heavily, Hangzhou found a way to grind out the win in ways that seemed impossible for the roster beforehand.
The team did end up inevitably losing to a powerhouse Dragons team, but that does not discredit their accomplishment. Making it to the finals itself was enough to show the growth this team has gone through. The team looked completely different from the squad that held 3-0 defeats to both their quarter and semi-finals opponents just weeks before the tournament.
Going into their final game of the 2020 regular season, Hangzhou need to take continue that momentum from the Countdown Cup and ride it into the playoffs.
Seoul Dynasty (11-11) // Saturday @ 4 A.M. EST
With the Spark being rewarded two wins as the runner-ups of the tournament, their current record is an even 11-11. The final matchup of the season against Seoul will help determine if the Spark can improve to a positive 12-11 record. This is far beyond what the team was at a few weeks ago but is also below what the team hoped for as a Top 3 team in the OWL. While the team has been streaky the entire season, the team chose no better time to get hot than the final tournament of the season. Outside of the finals against Shanghai, the true potential of Hangzhou shone through in multiple ways.
The team showed their DPS flexibility against the Hunters, first and foremost. From Ashe/Genji to Sombra/Tracer to Symmetra/Mei, Minho “Architect” Park and Kyeong-bo “GodsB” Kim came into their own against a Chengdu team that almost seemed forced to stay within the meta at times. The duo kept the opposing team guessing continuously which ultimately allowed Hangzhou to pull off the win. This prowess also showed against the Dynasty in the first round.
The quarterfinal nerves were present for the group as they went down 0-2 early. But for a team that have never been able to recover well during adversity, they clearly showed some improvement. A catalyst for said improvement during this series was Sang-hyeon “SASIN” Song. While there have been plenty of times that SASIN has not been able to help carry the team, he was a big help coming into Map 3. Sung-jun “QoQ” Yu struggled in the first two maps against Seoul and SASIN came in as a change of pace. This was something that the Spark have rarely done before Ji-Sub “paJion” Hwang was promoted. As the record shows, the tactic worked, and bringing in SASIN as a spark plug for the team helped Hangzhou find a way to close the series in five.
Anime Arc of the Week // The Tigers Won’t Go Down Without A Fight
This final matchup could very well determine if the Spark are in fact a legitimate contender in the APAC division. The Spark hold a 3-2 record against the Dynasty in total this season including Tournament matches. If they win, they improve to 4-2 against Tiger Nation as well as 4-1 in the final five games of the season. Every APAC team will participate in the postseason, so momentum going into the playoffs will fare far greater than overall standings. If the Spark want to keep their confidence levels high and maneuver their way to a rematch with the Dragons, then this final test could prove to be an important one for the Pink and Blue.
Prediction: Spark win 3-2
Featured Image Courtesy of the Hangzhou Spark
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