Sentinels coach Syyko says ‘trust the process’ after loss to Fnatic at VCT LOCK//IN

by Brian Bencomo

Before Sentinels faced Fnatic on Friday at VCT LOCK//IN, it had been nearly two years since the two teams had faced each other. With only a few international competitions each year, there haven’t been many opportunities for one of the most popular North American teams to face one of the most popular European teams. NA’s Sentinels last faced EMEA’s Fnatic in May 2021 during the final of the first-ever international VALORANT tournament, Masters: Reykjavík.

It felt like a coronation for Sentinels, who had dominated the game since its release in 2020, and the start of an era of dominance for Sentinels in the VALORANT Champions Tour. Since then, however, Sentinels have been merely good and not great. They haven’t won any international or domestic tournaments, and the team composition has changed drastically.

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Still, because of their early success in the game, Sentinels have become one of the most popular VALORANT teams in the world. Combined with the popularity of Fnatic, over 700,000 people watched their first-round LOCK//IN matchup on Friday, per Esports Charts. It was the second-highest peak for the tournament so far. It also helped that the new-look Sentinels have two Brazilian players who won Champions last year on the roster and LOCK//IN is taking place in São Paolo.

Alas, because of the single-elimination format of the tournament, Sentinels are now out of the tournament after losing to Fnatic, and their fans will be left to wonder just how good the new roster is.

Read more: VCT LOCK//IN São Paolo: Ranking all the teams

Trust the process

Photo credit: Riot Games

Their new coach Don “Syyko” Muir was calm after the loss, telling reporters that the team will learn from their experience at LOCK//IN.

“It’s all a process. I know this, the guys know this. All we can do is trust the process and keep working,” he said.

Syyko said Sentinels got “invaluable” experience at LOCK//IN despite getting to play only one match. He pointed to the stage experience with the new team and the practice the team got against other top teams from around the world.

“Building a championship team takes a long time. It’s a process, right. We learned this back in XSET,” he said.

Over the past two years, Syyko coached XSET, a team that slowly got better over time competing at Nerd Street's LANs as well as VCT. XSET did well enough against other North American teams throughout 2021 and early 2022, but failed to qualify for international competitions until mid-2022. At Masters: Copenhagen, XSET didn’t win any matches. However, they were better at Champions where they finished among the top six teams.

Read more: XSET qualify for first international VALORANT event, Masters: Copenhagen

Two members of that XSET team are now on Sentinels, Rory "dephh" Jackson and Zachary "zekken" Patrone, alongside the two aforementioned Brazilian players, Gustavo "Sacy" Rossi and Bryan "pANcada" Luna, and Sentinels’ longtime star, Tyson “TenZ” Ngo.

Sentinels’ outlook for 2023

Photo credit: Riot Games

“Our eyes are on Champions and qualifying for that which is qualifying for Tokyo and doing well in the [Americas] league, so those have been our focus points,” Syyko said.

Sentinels will have just under a month to prepare for the start of the VCT Americas league in late March. Among the issues the team will seek to address between now and then is communication. Syyko mentioned both after the match and in a pretournament press conference that the team is “punching through” language issues due to having to integrate two players whose first language is Portuguese.

Read more: VCT 2023: Riot Games reveals schedule, location details

Fnatic’s in-game leader Jake “Boaster” Howlett complimented Sentinels on their play but speculated that language issues might be a potential problem.

“I think maybe Sentinels might have struggled with pANcada because I do remember at Champions I did a jersey swap with him and I was trying to talk to him and he did have a translator with him,” Boaster said.

Boaster also said he thinks Sentinels will be much better by the end of the year due to their in-game leader dephh and their coaching staff.

Photo credit: Riot Games

“I think they’re gonna be a slow-burner team, but they’re gonna get better and better over time,” he said.

If Sentinels follow the trajectory XSET had last year, perhaps we won’t have to wait as long to get another rematch between Sentinels and Fnatic.

The next international VALORANT competition will be Masters: Tokyo in June.

Lead photo credit: Riot Games

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