The day before the finals, the two teams that faced each other in the Stage 1 finals had a chance to meet again in the Stage 2 finals. This season was the story of the San Francisco Shock and Vancouver Titans. Both teams asserted their dominance in the first half of the season, albeit being in the same division. Heading into the Stage 2 playoffs, both teams had a similar identity: undefeated Stage 2 records, all-star rosters, and driven to be the best team in the Overwatch League.
There was a chance that both teams could not meet in the Stage 2 finals. In one end of the bracket, San Francisco faced Hangzhou Spark, who came off an impressive win against London Spitfire, who are the defending Season 1 champions. Xu "guxue" Qiulin and Ho-jin "iDK" Park are the sparks for their team, but the Shock was too much for Hangzhou as San Francisco beat them to advance to the Stage 2 finals.
Awaiting the Shock at the other end of the bracket are the New York Excelsior or Vancouver Titans. New York was undisputedly the best team in the inaugural season — except the season playoffs. They continued to be one of the best teams in Season 2, with the exception of the Stage 1 playoffs. Speaking of the Stage 1 playoffs, a dream match was for New York and Vancouver to meet. Due to unforeseen circumstances, New York was defeated by the Seoul Dynasty and that dream match crumbled. However, in the Stage 2 playoffs, the fans’ prayers were answered and we got the New York and Vancouver to face each other. The stakes were high with the winner playing San Francisco in the Stage 2 finals. New York had a glimpse of control over Vancouver until the Titans unleashed their wrath upon the Excelsior. All-star player, Sung-jun "SLIME" Kim led Vancouver in another convincing win to meet the Shock in the Stage 2 finals.
When asked what is going to change for the Shock heading into the Stage 2 finals, Dong-jun "Rascal" Kim replied, “Obviously playing against Vancouver was a huge learning experience. We learned how they play. For us, we’re not going to be scared and hold back. We’re going to play our style and hopefully come out with a win.”
No sense of fear and a vote of confidence for the Shock’s DPS.
Titans’ support Jooseok "Twilight" Lee retorted, "There's a famous quote saying, "Everyone has a plan until they get hit." The Shock has good momentum but against us, they're 0-2. When they lose to us, they will crumble."
The stars aligned for both teams to meet in the Stage 2 finals. Map 1 was in Lijiang Tower where fans saw a different tone for the San Francisco Shock. They played more aggressive, more active on the point, and finding open opportunities to pick off any Titans. The Shock won the first map, but the Titans were not ready to let the Stage 2 championship slip off yet. The Titans took the next two maps, utilizing a 4 DPS composition in Paris to wipe the Shock’s confidence away.
The Shock was not tilted by the dominance of the Titans in the previous two maps — they bounced back in the next two maps, sticking to their style and plan to win. “I think for us, we had a strategy in mind going into the game and didn’t really divert from that. We just played what we practiced and made adjustments when we needed to,” said all-star Matthew "super" DeLisi, tank for the Shock in their post-match press conference.
A huge factor in the Titans being the Stage 1 champions was Sang-beom "Bumper" Park. His active playstyle threw off many teams including the Shock in the Stage 1 finals. A plan revealed by the Shock in their post-match press conference was to stop Bumper. “I think Bumper [is their best player]. We were scared of Bumper too much,” said Shock’s head coach Da-hee "Crusty" Park. “We kind of let him do whatever he wanted to in the first stage finals. But, this time we punished him,” added super.
Heading into Map 6 of Blizzard World, their plan to divert Bumper off his game came to fruition. Bumper could not engage properly as he did in the Stage 1 finals — charging into opposing players, triggering effective Earthshatters, and swinging for frags. The Shock took advantage of every opportunity to win Map 6 and capped off redemption from a loss in the Stage 1 finals. They can call themselves the Stage 2 champions.
“People rated us highly, but I don’t think anyone expected us to do what we did. I think we proved that, especially since a lot of people were saying — we’re a good team, but we weren’t tested. We never played a good team like Titans or NYXL this stage, so our wins weren’t a testament to how good we were. Today, I guess we made that statement,” stated super. Crusty added, “I think people thought our team was not the first [place team] for sure, always second or third. They were saying — they’re good but not like NYXL or Vancouver. Today, we break that.”
This win could be the beginning of a new era with the Shock’s reign or it could mean the start of the best rivalry in the Overwatch League. It is inevitable.
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