NAL Victory - The Jobro Perspective
It's 7-7 on map 2, Club House, our choice. After two technical issues, one for Soniqs and one for Dark Zero, the final round is finally starting to play out. No one sounds unduly concerned at the weight of the next three minutes, the break being a breath of fresh air for both teams to reset themselves and come in fresh. If there was a time for me to pace, this would be it, but I hold steady behind my guys, praying we can close it out here and avoid a map 3.
The opening kill goes the way of Dark Zero as an explosion rips open the hatch with one of the guys standing a slim meter away. The last two weeks of practice come to mind, a focus on the importance of finding and closing out two-man advantages. The guys know now that they need to force the defender’s hand and swing the odds back in their favor. As we get an initial foothold into the map, Supr, our captain and IGL, goes for a distraction play on the opposite side, hoping to apply pressure and cause an overreaction with the stakes never higher. As I look over to Rexen, our primary entry's screen, I see just that, a reaction by Dark Zero responding to the opposite side map pressure. One kill goes our way, the other seemingly downed. Traditionally, Rexen perhaps runs in and goes for the kill, but after his year with the Soniqs, he thinks differently. I close my eyes and take a deep breath; everything we’ve learned over the year comes to a head in moments like these.
At the start of the year, the goals laid out were modest. After a tumultuously received offseason, in which some fans went so far as to call for our removal from the league altogether, myself, Supr, and the former eUnited guys sat down and committed to developing a growth mindset and working towards continuous improvement. It's easy to get wrapped up in the wins and losses from quarterly stage to stage, but holistically we wanted everyone to think bigger picture over the course of the year. It wasn't always going to be smooth sailing, but if everyone worked together to find a solution to the problems that found us, we'd find something we could all be proud of, our own version of success.
Stage 1 everyone, including myself, had a chip on their shoulder. While our goal was to place somewhere in the top six, we wanted to show everyone what we were building towards and could be capable of. We placed 2nd, qualifying for the May Major had the Six Invitational not been delayed and taken its place.
Stage 2 went down to the wire, the last game being the one that determined who made the major and who didn't. Almost everyone said we were lucky the previous stage and it wouldn't happen again. Yet having learned from the final game stressors the previous stage, we persevered, locking in third overall and making our first international major.
Stage 3 we felt comfortable, having proved we were no longer the underdogs nationally, but a top team to be taken seriously, one now itching to prove themselves internationally. Despite a tough loss earlier in the season, a few big wins catapulted us to another potential major qualification. Despite it again coming down to the final day, an early Dark Zero loss punched our ticket. We would get to try again against the world's best.
The majors were an eye-opening experience. In Mexico, we won our first game, and lost the remaining five. While everyone was disappointed we missed making it out of the group stage, the dialogue taking place was dedicated to learning from our failures and taking it into the next season and major. Prior to Sweden, our commitment led to the team doubling down on the work and prep going into the event. Everyone felt confident in our efforts. While we earned a win and overtime loss, thus doubling our points from the Mexico Major, we still failed to make it out of groups and internationally had more to take away from and continue to learn.
Two weeks prior to the NA Finals was no better time to adapt and iterate on those tough lessons. Having seen what was successful internationally, we needed reps into a more assertive style and maximizing the advantages earned early in rounds. Double scrims were booked that entire period leading up the event, our goal being to have our style of play refined enough for the next Six Invitational. A style worthy of the top overall North American seed and one of the four teams internationally placing top four every stage this year.
Coming into our first best of three series as a team against Oxygen, we established a mantra of conserving our energy for a long series alongside what we had been practicing the weeks leading up to the event. Two max overtime games later, the boy's efforts paid off, taking a series win on map 3 in regulation. After their upset win against Spacestation, we could not have asked for a more poetic final than that of facing off against Dark Zero, the team we had only just snapped an eight-game losing streak to as an organization. It only felt right that the year would culminate with this matchup.
My eyes open as I’m called back to the moment at hand. A reset is called as the guys drone out the map, as if hearing this internal monologue racing through my brain. The other player is not down and is indeed alive and well, hiding in a corner and awaiting a mistake. Instead of getting one, he's prefired perfectly with the information the drone provides, giving us the two-man advantage. Another quick kill goes our way, and we're now four versus one on map and series point. Another reset is called, the final guy is found in site. Everyone pushes seamlessly for the trade, and the Soniqs win their first LAN final in Rainbow 6, defeating our rival Dark Zero once again 2-0.