With the stage prepared and ready, the Sentinels — the reigning champs of the first ever international Valorant tournament — were dreaming of rekindling the flame which took them to Iceland, where the tournament was held last year.
And although their pride ran strong, the former champs were defeated by the Minnesota-based team Version 1 (V1) in the qualifying rounds of the Valorant Champions Tour (VCT) Challengers which happened this march. They are now relegated to waiting two months in order to participate in the qualifying rounds of the 2nd stage of VCT.
Throughout the tournament, major flaws within their team and play-styles became apparent. The Sentinels struggled with the crucial elements of communication, teamwork, and leadership.
Just last year the North American Esports team from Los Angeles, California, made history becoming the first ever winners of Valorants International event in Reykjavik, Iceland. The Sentinels had a remarkable run, winning all nine of their games, not losing a single map in the tournament.
This year, they hoped on achieving back-to-back wins but after their defeat at the hands of Version1 they failed to qualify for the VCT Reykjavik Masters. Audiences will be unable to see the former champs participate in the international event, which begins next month.
The Sentinels are led by Tyson Ngo, better known as Tenz. Tenz is considered one of the greatest players in the league, and had an outstanding performance with an accumulative 64 kills in the three matches against V1, with the runner up being Penny from the opposing side with only 54. However, the team as a whole has so far underperformed, making many mistakes which contributed to their early exit.
The first mistake the team made was relying solely on TenZ, their star player. Ever since the Sentinels picked him up after Jay Won’s Departure back in 2021, they have eased up as a team. It seems that the presence of Tenz makes the team too comfortable, so even when individually all players on the team are good, the other team’s communication and teamwork create a bigger skill-gap.
But the Sentinels have a talented roster including Dapr, and ShahZaM” who are all capable of getting kills on their own.
Michael “Dapr” Gulino, is a part of the core roster to Sentinels. Dapr takes on a supportive role, defensively locking down areas using agents—characters which have unique abilities—like Viper, Cypher, and Killjoy. These agents make sure enemies aren’t able to advance within the agents’ territory, especially after planting the spike – the bomb whose detonation wins the match – these agents are crucial for holding the detonation site.
After their loss to V1 Ngo received an outlash online regarding his performance. Dapr then went live on Twitch to defend his teammate.
“Don’t you ever talk about Tyson. [He’s] one of the best players I’ve seen grace the gaming world.”
Dapr stated that Tyson is under a lot of pressure.“If he goes negative in a single series half the community and his fans that were just saying ‘Oh my god, I love Tyson’ . . . will be like Tyson you are so bad.”
Ever since Tyson became an official Sentinel Member in June of last year Dapr and he have been two of the closest on the team. “He’s like a golden retriever you know?” Dapr said. “He’s like really genuine with what he does, and he doesn’t have like a bad bone.”
Another part of this championship-caliber roster is in-game leader Shazeeb “Shahzam” Khan, a former counter-strike:Global Offensive player. He tends to play agents that can support his team, while also getting kills. He mainly plays Sova, an agent which can acquire info for his team, using shock darts and his ultimate to pick off enemies. He’ll also occasionally play Jett when TenZ isn’t.
Earlier this last February their contract expired with coach Shane ‘Rawkus’ Flaherty, a retired Overwatch player now turned to Valorant, and there was delay in resigning him due to what he explained as “buyout complications.” Now he’s back , and the team can now begin to work together. Without a coach, the team never has a set-out strategy, they are inefficient when pushing the plant-site, they don’t hold good angles, and they don’t effectively use their abilities together.
In games, such as the one against V1, the skill-gap between a team with a coach and one without was more noticable. With V1 having specified setups post-plant, they were able to control the game having run these setups prior in scrimmages.
When being asked about their coaching situation TenZ acknowledged this difficulty.
“We have been trailing multiple coaches. So, we are just feeling things out. We will definitely be signing a coach before the next event,” Tenz said “Hopefully, you will see us as a lot more cohesive next time.” With their coaching seat empty, the team must make filling the spot a priority.
Comms and callouts are essential in Valorant. They’re an efficient way of communicating team strategies and enemy locations that greatly benefit the team. Allowing your teammates to know where people are and where you’re going to be are key components to winning or losing a round. Poor communication within the team leads to critical mistakes that you can’t afford to make at such a high level, and this is another area where Sentinel’s weaknesses become clear. Not clearing corners, holding bad angles post-plant, and their lack of practice with their utility have handicapped them. With the fundamental cores of Valorant being teamwork and numbers, the Sentinels team came up short losing to V1 in VCT Challengers.
Although the team suffered a surprising loss, their future continues to be bright, with a talented roster and expert skills. With an exciting young superstar like TenZ, and hopefully a new coach, fans still have a chance to see how the team will improve and redeem themselves at VCT NA Stage 2 Challengers.
When asked about their position TenZ said, “I know right now that we’re in a slump. It happens to any team or player. It’s rough, but we have to deal with it. Hopefully for the next stage you can see a better us.”
Cover Image: Sentinels