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The Guard outlasted Sentinels during a marathon of a best-of-three series Thursday at the North American VALORANT Champions Tour Last Chance Qualifier. The match was Michael “Shroud” Grzesiek’s debut with Sentinels and his return to competitive esports. With the win, The Guard shut down the buzz and send Sentinels to the LCQ lower bracket.

The victory was also an encouraging sign for The Guard, who haven’t been able to find their confidence since their poor showing at Stage 2 Masters Reykjavik. In a big match with tons of close calls, the team didn’t lose their cool.

“I think we kept our composure super well,” The Guard’s Michael “neT” Bernet said. “All of us trust each other so much, and we have so much confidence in each other to just move on to the next thing.”

Simply put, The Guard look like they’d done their homework in the time ahead of the LCQ event. In particular, their Icebox composition — Chamber, Brimstone, Viper, Fade and KAY/O — was a new look for the team.

“Most of our mistakes from Stage 2, we weren’t adapting to the meta fast enough,” the team’s in-game leader Jacob “valyn” Batio said. “We’re just a lot more of a flexible team right now, which we weren’t before.”

The Guard stay in upper bracket at NA LCQ

The best-of-three between The Guard and Sentinels delivered on the hype that had been building since Sentinels announced Shroud would play in the LCQ. The series went the distance with a total of four overtimes and 79 rounds of VALORANT played.

The Guard’s Trent “trent” Cairns went nuclear during the series, dropping 75 kills. His multi-kills were absolutely crucial with 15 2K rounds and seven 3K rounds. The performance was a reminder of what the young American player was capable of during their incredible run ahead of Masters Reykjavik.

As for Sentinels, there was a fairly even contribution across the board from the players. Shroud was the notable exception, but even he found impact with big clutches and multi-kills. It’s an encouraging result for a player in their first-ever VCT match — even one with as vaunted a history in esports as Shroud.

On the opposite side of the server, neT wasn’t able to say whether or not Shroud’s individual performance lived up to the hype. He did however shout out Jordan “Zellsis” Montemurro, who was also making his debut with Sentinels.

“I thought Zellsis played phenomenal and he did amazing,” neT said. “Especially on Breeze. He really showed how good he is as a player.”

Overall, neT was complimentary of Sentinels. He said the team was a level above where Sentinels were during Stage 2.

“It feels like a new team,” he said. “In my opinion, they worked really hard and it shows. Honestly, they just played super well.”

The Guard go on to face the winner of the match between Cloud9 and Shopify Rebellion. Before that upper bracket semifinal, neT said his team has some areas they need to shore up.

“We really need to fix our post-plants and our man-up situations because there were so many rounds we were up big, but we just didn’t convert,” he said. “I’d say fundamentally and just shooting, everyone’s playing really well.”