Over the past five weeks, 12 Overwatch League teams have poured their hearts and souls into their Stage One matches.
And today, it all came to a conclusion, as the top three teams fought for the lion’s prize of $100,000. Those three teams were the Houston Outlaws, London Spitfire, and the New York Excelsior after Houston’s 3-2 victory over the Boston Uprising earlier in the day.
In the semifinals, Houston and the London Spitfire squared off in a rematch from earlier this week where the Outlaws were victorious. But this match belonged to London, and that win secured them a spot in the Stage One finals against top-seeded New York Excelsior.
The first game, Junkertown Escort, was a tough fight for London. Despite their quick start to the map, the play of New York’s Do-hyun “Pine” Kim on Widowmaker really wore down Spitfire over the course of the game.
After a back-and-forth start to the game, New York regrouped and set up a solid defense. Joon-yeong “Profit” Park of Spitfire did the best he could while playing on Genji to try to break through the defenders from Excelsior, but it took until overtime for his team to actually do so and reach the third point.
Despite having a lot of time to advance the payload through Junkertown, New York didn’t spend any extra time in getting their three points on offense. With their constant aggression, Excelsior kept pushing London back from start to finish.
In the tiebreaker, London had less than a minute to push their payload. In that time, they escorted it 54.75 meters. But Excelsior had over four minutes to exceed that distance, and they rather easily did that once Hye-sung “Libero” Kim switched over to Pharah, where the airborne hero rained down projectiles on the tanky heroes that London decided to pick.
Regardless of New York substituting Jong-yeol “Saebyeolbe” Park in for Pine before game two, Oasis Control, London gained early control. But on both points, London stalled out and fell in defeat after coming just one percent away from victory. In the game’s final moments, Saebyeolbe, while playing Tracer, killed just about every desperate London defender to clinch the win for New York.
With their backs against the wall, London needed a win on Horizon Lunar Colony Assault to stay alive and prevent a three-game sweep in the finals.
The start to the game was much needed, as Spitfire overran New York and captured both points in relatively easy fashion. But it wasn’t as easy for Excelsior. After their first two pushes were thwarted, Excelsior broke through the London defense to take the first point. The second point was even more difficult to capture due to the incredible effort from Spitfire, but New York tied it up after a nearly two-minute stall.
With Excelsior on attack trying to break the tie and end the series, it was a chaotic end to game three. London refused to break, somehow holding on to keep their title hopes alive.
In game four, London controlled the action. Spitfire played aggressively to push around New York on Numbani Hybrid to tie the series up and send the finals to a decisive game five.
On Dorado Escort, neither team wanted to fall. And after a solid stand on defense from New York, it looked like the London Spitfire were going to be that team.
London’s defense, however, was even more impressive as the New York Excelsior were repelled in every single push. That resilience from Spitfire was the difference, and ultimately, it was the key to their $100,000 match victory.
The first stage is complete, but the inaugural season of the Overwatch League is nowhere near finished. After a week and a half break, teams will resume play on Wednesday, Feb. 21.