The first weekend of the League of Legends European Championship (LEC) was marked by the dominance of non-favored teams, as Vitality and SK Gaming see themselves tied for third place. Just a few months ago, they had been tied for last.
Rising above G2 Esports and Schalke 04, Vitality entered the stage with confidence. Hadrien "Duke" Forestier, coach of Team Vitality took the time to discuss the changes in the team's roster, practice, and hopes for the upcoming weeks.
Vitality had one of its toughest Splits during Spring. I recall the team’s demeanor being rather demotivated. What would you say they struggled the most with during the previous Split?
I think in Vitality motivation was not the issue. Confidence was the issue. In general, the roster had to go back and forth due to the visa issues some of our players encountered, and some had to play the LFL back to back with the LEC every week. A lot of problems were adding up.
Now finally we are in the new office, and we can play with Milica. A lot of things went wrong in the Spring Split, but now we definitely are better prepared, with our starting five from the beginning.
Talking about the previous Split, how was the team’s offseason? Was it more relaxing or was it stressful in a sense of feeling the urge to make changes?
The offseason was definitely not relaxing. During the last three weeks of the Spring Split, our team knew that we had no way of turning things around, so we started to prepare for the Summer Split. We had a long tryout process of almost three weeks during the offseason, then also had personality tests, starting our boot camp slightly earlier than other teams.
What was the bootcamp experience like?
When I say boot camp, I mean boot camp here in the EU. Some players were in Berlin, some were quarantined because of COVID-19 preventive measures, and Labrov was still finishing high school because it was delayed and he ended up being in Greece longer than expected. We were only able to all play in the same room about ten days ago.
We definitely had a long offseason, but I wouldn’t say it was stressful. The stress is kicking in now.
What about you as a coach? What did you do as soon as the Split was over?
I tried to reflect on what went wrong. It’s really hard to know in fact what is wrong with the team at first, so I had to break down the issues we had. I had to come up with a solid plan of attack for the Summer Split, and that definitely made for a busier break. After I had these tasks done, I took some time to myself to relieve the pressure, but confinement did not make the situation ideal, so I was stuck in my Paris apartment all day.
And you were painting Warhammer figures again? *laughs*
*laughs* Yeah, actually. I painted a sh*t ton of Warhammer figures. And I still do, it’s my night time decompression time.
I knew you’d say that, by the way.
The Vitality we saw on stage today was oppressive, quite the opposite of Spring. Where did the assertiveness come from?
We are playing more solidly as a team. We also have the ability to play more effectively now. Even though we are playing better, we have a lot of room for improvement if we want to make it to the top teams in the LEC. It’s comforting to see us have steady games, but we are not there yet.
Labrov was a very popular rookie in tryouts. What made Vitality pick him as their Support?
We approached him really early on. Our tryouts phase started even before playoffs, so we tried him out and saw he had really great potential. He gets along really well with our ADC Comp, and they are both from Greece so they share that in common.
Vitality showed him the project we had for the team coming in Summer, in contrast to what we had during Spring. Now we have a lot more infrastructure for our players, so on top of that, we moved fast and achieved the signing.
Finally, the team is able to have Milica in its roster. What has he brought to Vitality?
Milica is a Mid Laner that runs on a lot of calculations. He has a lot of knowledge of his role, so he knows exactly what he has to do. That makes him a really solid player, so with all this strength in our early game, he really makes it for a big plus.
What do you think this first win will mean to your players?
It’s a big relief. We had a very hard schedule in the first week, and the second week too. This helps us not be a zero win team. You always have this fear that the win will never happen.
I think a loss would have meant a lot too. It’s really important to avoid it. Overall, we are really happy to start off on a good foot.
To close off, what are your hopes for the upcoming weeks?
We hope to make it to the playoffs. Even if it sounds really crazy at the moment, this Split four teams have the chance to make it to Worlds, so we are dreaming of a spot. Vitality is aiming for playoffs.
Looking for more LoL Esports content? Look no further.