"We didn't prepare at all. We never prepare," starxo said. "Like, we talk about it openly that we don't prepare against teams. We don't anti-strat anyone. We just go into the game, we play our game, read them in game: how they play, how they work on the map and we just adapt."
The opening playoffs match started on Icebox. Acend pulled out an early lead by going 5-0, winning two of those rounds off of Kiles ' 2Ks. Team Secret then won two rounds, the second one thanks to a 3K from dispenser , but weren't able to get much more done. The Filipino squad only won two more rounds as the half came to a close 8-4 in favor of Acend.
BONECOLD started the second half off the right way by winning a 1v2 clutch on the pistol round. Acend got one more round before Team Secret got on the board, thanks to a 4K from BORKUM . The team followed that up with a flawless, as they were starting to feel the hype and triggering a timeout from Acend.Ice cold plays from the ice cold man.
After the timeout, the European squad started getting back on the board. Acend thwarted an A entry to break Secret's three-round streak, retaking the same site the next round to reach matchpoint. BORKUM managed to delay his team's demise one round further thanks to a clinical lurk, but Acend quickly rounded their opponent's pick 13-8.
The Duelist duo of zeek and cNed carried Acend for the duration of the map. Not only were both players at the top of the scoreboard throughout Icebox, they also scored the most multikills at seven and nine respectively. cNed alone put up impressive numbers: 345 ACS and over 220 ADR, opening up seven of the 21 played rounds.
"[Winning Icebox] was a really good confidence boost," BONECOLD said. "We didn't let them get under our skin. We were ready for the things that they were doing and we read the game very well against them."
In spite of their performance, zeek and cNed were the only members of Acend not to win a clutch, handing those honors over to their teammates.
Acend picked Breeze as the second map, one BONECOLD later said is one they feel very comfortable on. zeek entered the map on KAY/O. It was the third time the Pole picked him during Champions, the second on Breeze. Last time zeek played KAY/O on Breeze, in the rematch against Keyd Stars Keyd Stars Brazil Rank #1 , he delivered 5 first bloods and over 230 ADR.
BONECOLD explained this pick centered around countering enemy information abilities like Sova's Owl Drone or Skye's Trailblazer.
"When you don't give the enemy any information it's really hard to push into open bombsites," the IGL said. "I feel like it's just a really good agent for zeek. zeek finds extremely good flashes, extremely good ways to disrupt enemy utility and I feel like zeek is just amazing on that agent."
Acend again found an early lead, thanks to a well-thought-out defense where they won the first five straight rounds. Team Secret decided to put in a pause to talk to coach Gibo . They were able to convert two rounds from there, the second one off of an aggressive 3K from DubsteP , to reach 5-2.
The half seemed to become much closer from thereon, with DubsteP clearing up the A site by himself on a thrifty round with his Blade Storm. In spite of that, Acend managed to stay ahead and win the half, once more, 8-4.Not even the casters were expecting this flick.
Acend carried the momentum from the first half over and won the first two rounds of their attacking side. dispenser broke their streak, thanks to a 4K A defense. Both sides traded rounds back and forth. Team Secret were 11-5 down but won a thrifty. Acend replied with an eco win of their own, off of a spraydown from starxo, to reach match point. Following a timeout from Team Secret, Acend stormed onto A and invested three ultimates to close out the game 13-6.
"This game went pretty well for us," starxo said in the post-match interview. "We didn't expect an easy game or anything. Every team here is very good. Team Secret played some good Valorant."starxo kept his cool under pressure to give his team the match point.
"[We didn't want to] fall into their traps and don't let them catch us off guard," BONECOLD said. "When we play our own game and we're focused and ready to trade, I feel like they don't stand a chance."
"The best thing about [minor regions] is that they play the games just like they play in scrims," he said. "They play carelessly, in a positive manner, they're not afraid to take risks. I feel like we handled the game against Secret very well and we're looking ahead to the next games."
cNed lived up to his role very well in today's series. He opened up 12 rounds across the game and only lost two opening duels. The famed Jett player also registered a 1.59 K:D across 14 multikills. zeek, in spite of not playing such a showy second map, scored 16 assists on Breeze only. Across both maps, he had a 2.26 KDA.
BONECOLD credited his win today to a number of factors.
"As a team, I feel like we've just been getting closer together," he said. "We've been doing things outside the game, we've been having sessions with our mental coach that has put us in a really good spot going through Champions."
"Personally, one of the biggest things, as an in-game leader is that I started to have a motto for myself. 'Play first and lead second,'" BONECOLD said. "I feel like it gives me a lot more freedom and confidence, it gives my teammates a lot more space to talk at the start of the round and mid-round so I can focus on the things that I'm doing and it doesn't lock me or somebody else up. I feel like, right now, we're playing extremely dynamic."
The VALORANT Champions quarterfinals continue today. Team Liquid and Cloud9 are next up, playing for a spot in the semifinals against Acend.
"I'd really like to have a rematch with Liquid," BONECOLD said. "We played them last time in the Red Bull [Home Ground] finals and I really want to get my revenge. I underperformed in that tournament and I'm really looking forward to facing Liquid and my friend Jamppi ."
starxo echoed his teammate's thoughts.
"We need more confidence coming into the next games. We're working on our mental and our confidence," he said. "We lost to Liquid [in Red Bull Home Ground] so we want to prove that we're still here and we can beat them."
Feelinara contributed to this recap.