ZETA DIVISION upset and eliminate Team Liquid from Stage 1 Masters
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ZETA DIVISION upset and eliminate Team Liquid from Stage 1 Masters

Japan's team for VCT continues to make upsets in 2022

In the first elimination game of the playoffs on Saturday, ZETA DIVISION eliminated Team Liquid from the VALORANT Champions Tour 2022 Stage 1 Masters.

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In this matchup, we had two teams that fought their way out of group stages, but had yet to face each other. Both came into Stage 1 Masters with different scenarios, with ZETA reigning top of Japan while Team Liquid, got in due to FunPlus Phoenix’s attendance issues.

Where Team Liquid beat their two opponents, ZETA lost against DRX, but bounced back to qualify for the playoffs. With their performance in the group stage and previous LAN experience, Team Liquid were the favorites. But, ZETA weren’t a team to take lightly, harkening back to the upsets in previous international tournaments.

“When a team exceeds expectations, they prove it to themselves that they can win,” said Travis “L1NK” Mendoza. “It helps, and we knew they were good, but those wins from groups gave them momentum coming into this match.”

Fracture brings out the best of ZETA

On the first map Fracture, Team Liquid continued their pick of Neon, while ZETA DIVISION chose the Astra. To start us off, ZETA won the first three rounds in a row off the back of Tenta “TENNN” Asai getting crucial picks in round three.

On the next gun round, it was Shota “SugarZ3ro” Watanabe that got two very important picks on B site to extend the lead to four. Throughout the entire event, TENNN and SugarZ3ro have been the most explosive players for ZETA, and that form didn’t dip at the start of Fracture. That was followed by a flawless for ZETA, forcing a timeout for Team Liquid.

Even after that timeout, SugarZ3ro got a 3k with a Shorty in tower. Team Liquid looked flat, while ZETA looked like the fundamentally better team on the map. The lead just kept growing, with Team Liquid not winning their first round until round nine. SugarZ3ro and his Shorty just got way more value than we’ve ever seen before in VCT.

With the strategy of holding very close corners, ZETA DIVISION went into the half in double digits, up 10-2.

But, the second half started well for Team Liquid. Off a pistol win, Adil “ScreaM” Benrlitom got a Marshal 4k that lead to a flawless.

While still in a bad position, we saw OpTic come back on Fracture from 10-4 down just yesterday against The Guard. Team Liquid found themselves in OpTic’s shoes, and started to look similar as they fought rounds back. From down 10-2, they reached 11-7 and forced a timeout for ZETA. Dom “soulcas” Sulcas on the Neon started to catch fire on defense.

Nobody expected that after the timeout, TENNN would rush onto the site and accidentally kill himself before his teammate Yuma “Dep” Hashimoto clutched out a 1v1 against soulcas. That thrifty win put them on map point, and ZETA cleaned up the next round.

ZETA DIVISION won Fracture 13-7, with SugarZ3ro’s map performance putting them in the series lead going into the next map of Haven.

Haven flips the momentum

On the first pistol round, Nabil “Nivera” Benrlitom’s two early picks gave Team Liquid an early lead. On top of an Elias “Jamppi” Olkkonen ace and a 4k, a new map gave Team Liquid new life in the series. Down 3-0, ZETA took a timeout to try and regain control of the map.

It wasn’t until SugarZ3ro clutched a fight to win ZETA their first round, down 4-1. Afterwards, a very smart Killjoy ultimate from Koji “Laz” Ushida prevented Team Liquid from even planting the spike, winning another round.

Yet, that proved to be one of the few victories for ZETA in the first half, going into the half down 10-2. As strong as they were on their first half on Fracture, Team Liquid almost replicated it on Haven.

TENNN managed to win a round almost singlehandedly, but like Team Liquid on Fracture, not enough for a comeback. The map ended 13-4 for Team Liquid, a statement win to take the series to a map three.

Split decides it all

On Split, ZETA immediately showed more comfort than they did on Haven, winning a great pistol round to lead early. On the third round, Dep with his Sherriff trades turned the round favorably for ZETA while TENNN and his Judge prevented Team Liquid from rotating.

In round five, ScreaM helped secure Team Liquid their first round win. Yet, just after, a good flank from Dep prevented Team Liquid from planting once again.

Just as the game risked getting out of control as the past two maps did, Team Liquid won three rounds in a row, hitting 5-4 before ZETA took a timeout.

When it mattered most, a post-plant scenario got hairy, but Nivera won the 1v1 and the teams went into the half tied 6-6. The final map of the series also proved to be the closest one at halftime.

The second pistol was close, but Dep yet again put ZETA in the lead. Off of two tight rounds where both teams had 2 players each, ZETA won the needed duels to regain a lead at 9-6.

Every time ZETA pushed and planted on B site, they would win out the duels. Reaching 10-6, ZETA just continued to clutch out important rounds, with Dep’s Sage walls getting a lot of value.

After hitting 11-6, a big thrifty win put Team Liquid into comeback territory, but ZETA fought tooth and nail on A site to get themselves on match point. Just when Team Liquid got an advantage, SugarZ3ro got the most important ace of his VALORANT career.

Completing the biggest upset in playoffs so far, ZETA DIVISION eliminated Team Liquid 2-1, continuing in the 2022 Stage 1 Masters. ZETA will now face the loser of the DRX/OpTic Gaming match.

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Michael Czar
Polish-Canadian game enthusiast. I've been entrenched in gaming for as long as I can remember, with my first game being Pokemon Yellow and my most played games being Borderlands 2 and Overwatch. I have a degree in Film Studies, but writing about esports just makes my job all the better.