Over the weekend, the top eight teams from the Overwatch League faced off in the Stage 2 playoffs. The weekend was filled with some exciting upsets, though it still ended with a rematch of the Stage 1 playoffs between the Vancouver Titans and the San Francisco Shock.
Hangzhou Spark Upset London Spitfire in the Quarterfinals
The playoff action kicked off with the Quarterfinals on Thursday and Friday. For the most part, the matches played out the way that many expected. Though the number one seed San Francisco lost their first map to the Shanghai Dragons, they remained calm and fought back for a convincing 3-1 victory. Similarly, the Vancouver Titans and New York Excelsior cruised to convincing 3-0 victories. None of these results were necessarily surprising.
The only surprising result of the quarterfinals came during the second match when the Hangzhou Spark took on the London Spitfire. Heading into the match, many thought the Spitfire were the clear favorites. After all, London are the defending Grand Finals champions from 2018 and finished Stage 2 at the top of the Atlantic Division. Hangzhou, on the other hand, barely qualified for their first ever stage playoffs. The match began as expected, with London winning the first map. However, the Hangzhou Spark bounced back, winning the next three maps. With the improbable results, the Spark earned their place in the semi-finals.
VICTORY ! ! We make it to the semi final as the 1st CNOW team and revenge @Spitfire ! ٩(๑^o^๑)۶ The team do so well in all games and make sparklers proud! GG to @Spitfire ! Congrats to @Hojin_idk for his real post-match interview! ∠(｀ω´*)#owl2019 #bang pic.twitter.com/acAmmaxqBY
— Hangzhou Spark (@Hangzhou_Spark) May 10, 2019
Though the Hangzhou Spark were able to pull off an upset against the London Spitfire, they had not yet faced their hardest challenge. Their semi-final match against the San Francisco Shock would be even more challenging. The Shock, who had just finished Stage 2 with a perfect 28-0 map record, where one of the favorites to win the playoffs. Though they did drop a single map to the Shanghai Dragons in the Quarterfinals, they cruised to a convincing 3-1 victory. San Francisco’s dominance continued, as they were able to cruise a dominant 4-0 victory, ending the Spark’s underdog playoff run.
The second match of the semi-finals held more promise for a close contest than the first. The Vancouver Titans have been by far the most dominant OWL team this season. Though the first year in the league for the team, they went undefeated in both Stage 1 and Stage 2. Many wondered which team would be the first to hand the Titans their first loss. The New York Excelsior, one of the top teams from last year, were commonly thought of as one of the few teams that might be able to take on the Titans.
However, in their semi-final matchup, even New York seemed to be outclassed by the Titans. New York and Vancouver split the first two maps of the match and headed into halftime with a 1-1 score. However, the Titans were determined to show another dominant performance. They came out of the break on fire and cruised to three straight wins, ending the match with a resounding 4-1 score.
Rematch in the Finals
The Stage 2 playoffs ended the way many predicted, with a rematch of the Stage 1 finals. The Stage 1 finals between the Vancouver Titans and the San Francisco Shock was an epic 7 game affair that the Titans were able to win. In Stage 2, both Vancouver and San Francisco continued their impressive performance, so many predicted that they would face off against each other in the finals. Would the Shock get revenge? Or would the Titans be able defend their title and cement themselves as the undisputed best team of 2019?
Much of the weekend was filled with blowouts, where one team seemed to clearly outclass the other. However, for fans of close Overwatch matches, the finals did not disappoint. The San Francisco Shock were able to draw first blood, winning convincingly on Lijiang Tower. However, the Titans remained calm and bounced back on the next two maps to take the lead. The Shock were able to follow it up with a win on Watchpoint: Gibraltar to tie the series up 2-2.
For a moment, it appeared as though the finals would go the distance for a full 7 game series, however, the Shock had other plans. After a convincing victory on Oasis, they needed only one more win to take the series. On Blizzard World, the Shock attacked first and were prevented from completing the map by the Titans. All Vancouver had to do was finish the map to send it to a game 7. However, the Shock were able to hold the Titans right before the second-checkpoint, clenching the map series. With their victory, the Shock capped off their historic Stage fittingly by getting revenge on the Titans for the Stage 1 finals.
THEY HAVE DONE IT!!!! THEY HAVE TAKEN DOWN THE TITANS!
— San Francisco Shock⚡ (@SFShock) May 12, 2019
Eyes on the Second Half of the Season
Two Stages of the Overwatch League’s 2019 are in the books. Though the action has been exciting, there is a clear divide between the top teams and the rest of the league. The Vancouver Titans and San Francisco Shock, after meeting each other in the finals twice in a row, have proven themselves to be the best teams in the league. It will be interesting to see if new teams will be able to rise up to challenge the Shock or the Titans in the second half of the season.