Mental fortitude paved the way for Acend's VALORANT Champions title
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Acend did not have a great Map 3 in the VALORANT Champions grand final. In Round 12, the team fell hard as Gambit Esports rushed the A site and mowed down their opposition. Four Acend players fell before Gambit decided to plant the spike.

As the last alive, Patryk “starxo” Kopczyński tried to retreat back to the defensive spawn and save his gun for the final round of the half. The rifle would give his team a better chance at doubling their current round score of 1-10 on VALORANT’s new map. But Gambit found the Polish player as he was running away and made sure to take away his gun by killing him and ending the round. After that, the team’s newest member, Aleksander “zeek” Zygmunt, had a message for his teammates according to Santeri “BONECOLD” Sassi.

“Zeek is the first guy to say ‘focus the f*** up team, this is the world championships,'” BONECOLD said.

It was a stark reminder to a squad with an average age of 21-years-old of where they were and what they were doing. After Gambit won the map 13-3, zeek was the first player out of his seat and off of the stage. His team came over to him and they started laughing and joking, almost as if they had not just suffered their worst map defeat at the tournament and put their opponents up 2-1 in the best-of-five series.

Acend's zeek at VALORANT Champions.
Acend’s zeek air first bumps his teammates at VALORANT Champions against Gambit Esports. | Provided by Riot Games

“We just said, ‘what can you do?’ It’s over already and we are just cracking jokes and having a lot of fun on stage, and that definitely helped us keep out mental going into Icebox,” zeek said. “We just kept it because we know that these are our maps and these were maps that Gambit is not as strong on. We just went with the flow like we always do.”

That mentality is something Acend implemented thanks to the help a mental coach the players and coach refer to as “Thomas.” While going with the flow sounds a little cliché, BONECOLD said, it is more about focusing on what is right in front of them rather than thinking about too much at once.

“Thomas, our mental coach, has given us a really nice mental fortitude and one of the biggest things in our team is that we’re always ready for the next round,” BONECOLD said. “We don’t look at the score line. We can be winning 12-0, we can be losing 0-12 — we always just think about the next round.”

That mentality shift explains a lot of Acend’s antics on stage. While there have been hosts of shenanigan’s on the VALORANT Champions stage, Acend always seemed a little more joyous and carefree. Whether it was the interviews full of laughter or starxo’s small jig after winning a round, Acend seemed to always keep it light, especially when compared to their stone-faced opponents on the grand final stage.

According to head coach Laurynas “Nbs” Kisielius, coaching the young players sometimes made him feel more like a zoo keeper, but he saw improvement in their gameplay, mentality and maturity even before he signed on to the team.

“Especially you can see in the younger players because they’re still developing more, and I hope that I did my job well, as well, giving the experience that I had in my time over to them,” Nbs said. “So yeah, I feel like we did insane development during the year and, without it, we wouldn’t be here.”

Acend managed to take the final two maps in the series and claim the first VALORANT Champions title. They went from a team that flamed out of VALORANT Champions Tour Stage 3 Masters Berlin in a tough match to 100 Thieves to only dropping three total maps at the highest stage of the esport.

While youth often tends to dominate most esports, maturity lends a hand in dealing with the harder stages of international competition. Acend had both as they joked and danced through the tournament. Their trust in their mental process, and belief in their teammates, is what brought them to the final stage and helped them overcome the Masters Berlin champions with arguably the best player in the world playing against them.

Declan is an esports journalist and part-time editor for Upcomer. He is an avid gamer and League of Legends player. You can find him at the bottom of the leaderboard in most games or on Twitter.
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