The Guard’s return to form almost brought them a Valorant Champions appearance

The Guard as a team at Valorant MastersLance Skundrich/Riot Games

The Guard lost to 100 Thieves 0-3 in the North American Valorant Champions Tour Last Chance Qualifier tournament after a surprising upper bracket push that saw them defeat Sentinels, Cloud9, and FaZe Clan.

The Guard were once the pride of North American Valorant. A team of young talents brought together and molded under an experienced coach that qualified for the Valorant Champions Tour Stage 1 Masters tournament as the top seed from the region.

But after leaving the tournament in 0-2 fashion, The Guard looked rattled and not like themselves on the international stage. The squad would admit that LAN jitters and nerves got to them.

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The team went 1-4 in the VCT Challengers league and missed the Playoff Stage for Stage 2 Masters Copenhagen.

The Guard vayln at VCT Stage 1 MastersLance Skundrich/Riot Games
The Guard won’t be representing North America at Valorant Champions.

“We learned a lot from Stage 1 with our experiences and we know that we didn’t play too well and we got flustered at LAN,” The Guard’s IGL Jacob ‘valyn’ Batio said in an interview with Dexerto after their win over FaZe Clan.

“But I think we took that on the chin and we had a lot of team talks and with our sports psychologist Ryan Terao. He talked to us about it, and learning how to deal with nerves, and I think we’re getting a lot better at it.”

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The team’s psychologist was also shouted out by Jonah ‘JonahP’ Pulice after the team’s loss to 100 Thieves.

The team talked through the differences in nervousness and excitement and how to deal with the adrenaline rush of top competition, something that the squad needed after Masters, and the grind of esports competition.

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“We had one with him last night, just talking about, like, why we’re doing this and why we’re here,” valyn said. “Sometimes you get lost grinding every single day and you forget why you’re doing this and who you are doing this for.”

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The Guard bounce back

According to The Guard’s head coach, Matthew ‘mCe’ Elmore, the team was already looking like their Stage 1 form in the last week of the Challengers league on June 11.

“If you had seen our practice going into the final game against NRG Esports I think we were in a spot that, I will still say, if we hadn’t lost that match and made playoffs, we would have challenged for a spot in Copenhagen,”

The team also got another boost coming into LCQ as Mateja ‘qpert’ Mijovic, a Serbian player, joined their staff as an assistant coach. mCe and valyn credit him as one of the big reasons the team turned itself around for the tournament and came in with fresh ideas and compositions.

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“[qpert] really brings that kind of EU mindset into our team and our practices have been more efficient, our game plans have been more efficient… I just can’t explain enough how helpful he is,” valyn said.

But even with the psychological and strategic boost, The Guard fell to a 100 Thieves that seemed to get better with every Valorant match they played in the LCQ tournament. While it was not the result they had hoped for, Valorant Champions qualification was the prize of the event, The Guard ended the year on a higher note than the rookie squad that washed out of Stage 1 Masters.

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“Nobody can take anything away from us right?” valyn said after losing to 100 Thieves. “We were all on separate teams, came together, and made something great this year. Obviously not the end result we wanted, but regardless, we did pretty good this year.”