jL: "All the pressure is on them"
Apeks had already beaten the North American giants once at this Major, back in the Challengers Stage opening game where the EU side won 16-12. However, that was completely different Liquid that NA fans had been treated to since their close match against Fluxo. Liquid had rode a massive momentum shift and looked like one of the best in the tournament in the Legends stage, losing only to Heroic.
Dishearteningly, the Liquid that showed up on stage in the Accor Arena drew more semblance to the flat team that had scraped their way through the Challengers stage than the one that had dominated in Legends. Apeks not only had their favorite maps in the series, due to Liquid perma-banning Vertigo, but also seemed to have all the plays. Apeks were dominant in victory as they took a 2-0 win with 16-10 and 16-11 scorelines misrepresentative of the gulf in class between the two.
One of Apeks star men on their urn to the Major Semi-Final has been Justinas "jL" Lekavicius, who despite being bottom of the scoreboard for the team in this match has been key to their campaign. The team's IGL and newest member Damjan "kyxsan" Stoilkovski was the player leading the charge against the North American side as he posted a 1.34 rating to lead his team to a top-four finish. jL spoke to Dust2.us' Arnie Petty after the match on the team's lack of nerves, his leader's massive performance, and Liquid's disappointing display.
Coming straight off the back of securing a top-four finish at his first Major, the rifler was understandably in good spirits after the match. jL talked about how he expected Liquid to provide something new, especially on Ancient due to the NA side surely knowing it would be played with their perma ban being Vertigo.
Feels amazing. really the first map was easier than expected, I thought they would bring something special. I thought they would know we would pick Ancient, they should have known that. the map went our way, we had a good game plan prepared and we felt like they played according to the book, and that's why they lost. They didn't change anything and it was easy for us to read them. On Overpass, they were a bit...not sloppy but they were trying to be too perfect, taking short, connector, taking a lot of map control and they were just playing straightforward CS nothing crazy.
As soon as it was announced the Veto caused worry for NA fans, Apeks had managed to secure two of their best three maps in the series with the other one being Overpass, a strong map for Liquid. Apeks were always going to be able to get Ancient, as previously mentioned Liquid permanently ban Vertigo which allowed the European squad to have their fun on the jungle-themed map. What was surprising was how flat Liquid looked on the map, having surely prepared for it they seemed to produce little to no new ideas to counter the European squad.
Yes, yes they should have known we were picking Ancient I thought...I don't know what they decided but they just played their game, they had nothing new. It was very simple. When we found out it was Ancient, Overpass, and Anubis we knew if we could win one of the two first maps we win the series. Anubis we were really prepared for them and we feel really comfortable on the map.
Whilst no slouch in the fragging department, kyxsan is certainly no star rifler either and his mammoth statistical performance assisted Apeks in taking down North America's number one side. However, jL makes sure to applaud the IGL's calling as well as his fragging and the overall confidence that is currently running through the team's leader and the team itself.
It's amazing because if the IGL is fragging out it means he is confident, not just mechanically but in his calls. We did the same round three times in a row and won all three, it was great calls on Overpass and he was feeling it for sure.
Asked about how the team is managing the nerves jL partially credits the setup as he doesn't feel a massive influence from the crowd. However, he also notes that for him as long as it's the same game it doesn't matter if there is a crowd or not.
Maybe now I will be nervous, but it's still the same game. I think they have a really good setup on BLAST you don't feel the noise, you hear the In-game sound and if you don't look around you don't feel you are in an arena. Unless you win a round with the bomb exploding everything is shaking around you, other than that it's super cool.
With Apeks' next match being against hometown team Vitality, they will likely be on the wrong end of a sold-out crowd on Saturday in comparison, Apeks enjoyed the majority of the support against their NA foes from within the arena. With the Vitality fans, jL is aware that he will almost certainly feel their presence but it is not something that scares him. In fact, it is something his team plan on using against the French-Danish roster.
The Vitality fans of course I will hear them, I'm not sure on our chance for it it will be a good game. All the pressure is on them, we have no pressure we have already made top four of a Major. We are going to use Vitality's crowd energy and convert it to motivation to win.
jL and Apeks will face Vitality in the second semi-final tomorrow after GamerLegion and Heroic have faced off.