OpTic Gaming’s Chamber star Jacob “yay” Whiteaker walks into the frame of the VALORANT Champions 2022 Zoom conference call with an infectious grin that can be felt throughout the entire room and video call. Each question asked by a journalist is immediately followed by an honest in-depth answer and a bright smile and some laughing as the adrenaline is rightfully high after OpTic Gaming’s momentous 2-1 victory over Brazil’s LOUD to qualify for the Champions playoffs.
You would have never guessed the intense series that took place moments before all of this.
Friday’s series between OpTic Gaming and LOUD marked the fourth matchup between the two VCT Masters: Reykjavík finalists, with OpTic Gaming now holding an advantage (3-1). OpTic Gaming in-game leader Pujan “FNS” Mehta holds their matchups in high regard.
“It’s definitely cool because every matchup has been so important,” FNS shared in a scrum following OpTic’s series win over BOOM Esports on Thursday. “It’s definitely been quite a show playing against them every time, so I think there is definitely a bit of a rivalry there.”
Each matchup between both teams has proven to be an all-out brawl. In Friday’s series, it was the Brazilians who made an immediate statement on Breeze to kick off the qualifying match. LOUD held OpTic Gaming to one round to end the first half of Map 1 with an 11-1 scoreline.
OpTic Gaming ultimately lost that first map on Breeze handily, but yay said it was just another “slow start” while laughing in the postgame scrum.
Photo credit: Riot Games
After going down 1-0 in the series, OpTic found themselves in a tight battle on Fracture, where the score between the two stood at an even 6-6 after the first half. LOUD crept their lead up to 10-7, but OpTic Gaming’s experience under pressure showed as they won six straight rounds to bring it to a final map.
It was a clean slate for both teams going into Pearl, VALORANT’s newest map in the competitive pool, as well as both teams’ final opportunity to grab the coveted first seed out of Group B. In this situation between two top contenders for the VCT Champions 2022 title, it would be understandable for pressure to mount. However, OpTic didn’t feel any pressure according to yay because of the team’s experience.
“We’ve been facing elimination so many times,” yay said while laughing. “We’ve always lost our opening matches and then it’s always elimination time where you only have one chance left, so for us we just have a lot of experience in that area.”
The last map appeared to favor LOUD after the Brazilians went up 2-0. However, that was shortly followed by domination from the side of OpTic Gaming, who ended the first half with a dominant 9-3 scoreline.
The Masters: Reykjavík champions’ dominant third-game performance on Pearl was capped off by a perfect 4-0 second half over LOUD to pull off the reverse sweep into the Champions playoffs.
Photo credit: Riot Games
With this victory, OpTic Gaming have secured the No. 1 seed from Group B, where they can now watch the remainder of the group stage play out before the start of the Champions playoffs on Sept. 10. That qualification also means an opportunity to play in front of a live audience once again, something that yay is especially excited for.
“It’s always a pleasure to play in front of spectators,” yay shared during the postgame scrum. “It’s crazy that you get to go out and just have people watch you guys play your passion … It’s a surreal feeling and I can’t wait to see all the fans in Turkey.”
As for LOUD, their tournament lives are not over yet. They will await the winner of Group B’s elimination match between BOOM Esports and ZETA Division on Sept. 4 for one final spot out of Group B. Regardless of opponent, LOUD are ready to put in the work and preparation to redeem themselves.
“We have to be prepared for either opponent, so we really need to sit down and focus to see what was actually missing today,” Bryan "pANcada" Luna stated when asked about their upcoming decider match. “We will especially look at Pearl again to see what we can improve on so we can bring our best play for our next game.”
LOUD’s next matchup will take place Sept. 7, where they will look to join their NA rivals in the Champions playoffs.
Lead photo credit: Riot Games