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ZETA DIVISION continue their underdog run, after defeating Paper Rex 2-1 and eliminating them from the VALORANT Champions Tour 2022 Stage 1 Masters on Friday.

Heading into this series, one Cinderella story would sadly end. Both Paper Rex and ZETA DIVISION have performed above their own expectations and set new standards for their regions. Paper Rex made a name for themselves in this lower bracket by using a super aggressive, chaotic playstyle. ZETA DIVISION have worked together as a team, using smart plays to upset many opponents. Now, only one of these two teams could continue their loser’s bracket run to face OpTic Gaming for the second spot in the finals. Out of the two teams, both with little expectations, ZETA have fought through the loser’s bracket, winning each match 2-1.

“Because this stage is such a new place for us, every match is a learning experience for us,” said Koji “Laz” Ushida in a press conference. “The more maps we have, the more maps we can learn from and improve on.”

Icebox puts Paper Rex in front

On the pistol round, both teams traded a player early, but Khalish “d4v41” Rusyaidee got a clean 4k on Chamber to win it for Paper Rex. After getting the next round, ZETA got their first map win off of some great shots from Tenta “TENNN” Asai.

As ZETA took the lead, both TENN and Laz showed off how they got this far, hitting clean shots to win rounds. Yet Benedict “Benkai” Tan got a 2k shock dart to tie the series at 4-4.

This map proved to be a map of runs, with Paper Rex going on one next. With great rounds from Wang Jing “Jinggg” Jie, Paper Rex finished the first half up 8-4.

Despite losing the first round 8-4, TENNN finished the half with 17 kills and only 8 deaths. Even with that performance, the team traded rounds at the start of the second half. After Paper Rex hit double digits up 10-6, the team worked together to secure the map.

Paper Rex finished Icebox 13-6, putting them one map from the lower bracket finals.

Haven keeps ZETA alive

On the first pistol in Haven, ZETA got a flawless to start with a needed round win. That pistol turned into a 4-0 lead, with Laz leading the way.

With another round loss, Paper Rex took a timeout. That led to their first round win, but Paper Rex couldn’t string two consecutive rounds together. After a slow Icebox, Shota “SugarZ3ro” Watanabe made his mark to put ZETA up 7-1. Going into halftime, ZETA remained up 10-2.

The second half was nothing but continued strength from ZETA, finishing up the map 13-2 and tying the series. Map three would decide who faces OpTic.

Split decides which story lives on

On a map that Paper Rex showed off their aggressive playstyle on before, they won the first two rounds in a similar fashion. ZETA squeaked their first round win by afterwards. Then, SugarZ3ro soon after clutched a 1v1 to tie up the series early on.

The teams traded rounds and Paper Rex retook the lead at 4-3. Paper Rex continued their chaotic attack and kept up their run. A lucky round win for ZETA revolved around Tomoaki “crow” Maruoka, when his Seekers found a flanking enemy and helped ZETA get a round back.

Just when ZETA could bring it back, a great wall from SugarZ3ro was countered by a 4k from Jason “f0rsakeN” Susanto. Even after a rough round loss to that 4k, ZETA pulled out a thrifty win to get to the half tied 6-6.

Paper Rex ended up winning the second pistol round as well, keeping the advantage they had for most of Split. Just as both teams got proper guns, ZETA got a crucial win with a great Viper’s pit. Down 9-8, the match remained within reach for ZETA, as they proceeded to tie it at 9-9.

It looked like Paper Rex’s aggression was finally getting countered, as crow got a 3k to put ZETA in the lead. But off the back of a f0rsaken clutch, Paper Rex kept it tied at 10-10.

Two aggressive starts from f0rsaken were countered, and that put ZETA on match point, 12-10. Then, TENNN got three crucial kills before dying, winning the series and eliminating Paper Rex. The Japanese fans went wild at the watch party, as shown on the broadcast.

“To all the fans who were at the watch party, the enthusiastic cheering really helps us,” said Yuma “Dep” Hashimoto. “Thanks to all of our fans.”

In the end, ZETA DIVISION beat Paper Rex on Split 13-10, winning the series 2-1. They will face OpTic in the lower bracket finals on April 23.