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Sentinels Outlasts LOUD to Win VCT Americas Kickoff

Zakaria Almughrabi

The VCT Americas 2024 Kickoff has concluded with Sentinels being crowned champions. The fan-favorite squad took down LOUD in the long, five-map Grand Finals to earn three crucial Championship Points towards qualifying for VALORANT Champions 2024 at the end of the season. This win marks a return to the top for Sentinels, a place they’ve been striving to get back to for multiple years now.

Sentinels VCT Americas Kickoff

Image Credit Riot Games | Robert Paul

Coming into the VCT Americas Kickoff, Sentinels was seeded into the most difficult group by far. On top of that, they had the misfortune of playing against LOUD in their opener. LOUD’s 2024 squad is nearly unchanged from the team that just finished top three at Champions 2023. The Brazilian squad was easily the top-ranked Americas team coming into the year. Those expectations were met early when LOUD swept Sentinels, then beat Leviatán to qualify for Playoffs.

Sentinels, on the other hand, had to qualify the hard way. After winning three map elimination games back-to-back, they earned a chance to play in the last-chance Play-In. Though Sentinels, G2 Esports, and MIBR scored a win, Sentinels did so without dropping a map, sending them through to playoffs.

The Battle for NA

As if their road hadn’t been hard enough, the random draw set Sentinels up with a match against NRG in the VCT Americas Kickoff semifinals. NRG had the most dominant showing of any team in the group stage, going through Group A without dropping a map with a +16 round differential. This North American super team had all the hype of having a strong core bolstered by two players from Evil Geniuses’ championship run last August.

The match began on Sentinels’ pick of Sunset. NRG accrued an early lead off winning the pistol. SEN did manage to stabilize their attack and get some crucial rounds. However, NRG still won out the half 7-5. That lead expanded to four after a second pistol round for NRG. After gun rounds were traded, NRG was nearing the finish line. A crucial win in round 22 put NRG onto map point. Sentinels needed two in a row for overtime, and that’s exactly what they got, courtesy of Tyson “TenZ” Ngo.

It took three overtimes for Sentinels to break the deadlock with an attacker’s round win finally. SEN had barely managed to hold on and win map one. Highlighted in this victory was TenZ and Zachary “Zekken” Patrone. SEN’s dynamic duo each racked up 30 kills to put their team over the line. This win was crucial, as NRG’s Ascent was up next.

Setting Up on Split

Sentinels is not an Ascent team. LOUD and MIBR chose this map in their matches against SEN, resulting in NRG doing the same. As expected, NRG was indomitable. Their attack side won eight of the 12 rounds despite losing the pistol. After they won the second pistol, it was only a matter of time before NRG evened up the series with a 13-8 victory.

Split was the decider map, and it’s one that Sentinels like quite a bit. While they were 1-2 on it at this point in Kickoff, they went within one round of forcing OT against LOUD. SEN had prepared this pick thoroughly, and it showed instantly. Sentinels nearly blanked NRG’s attack. Of the nine times they planted the Spike, SEN retook and defused eight of them. NRG couldn’t buy a round to save their lives, even getting 2v4’ed at one point by TenZ and in-game leader Mouhamed “johnqt” Ouarid.

It was a complete thrashing, an 11-1 half. Sentinels quickly cleaned up in just four rounds on attack, winning 13-3 and booking them a spot at VCT Masters Madrid. This was the main goal for every team at Kickoff. A top-two finish meant going to LAN and playing on the international stage. While SEN celebrated that for sure, the job wasn’t done yet. They wanted to go as the first seed, and they’d need to take down LOUD to do it.

Rematch Starts Strong for SEN

Kicking off the Kickoff Finals, LOUD picked Sunset. Both teams showed great form on the map, and the winner would gain a ton of momentum. It was clear early that SEN had come to play. Crucial rounds kept swinging in their favor. This phenomenally played 1v3 from Gustavo “Sacy” Silva set the tone for Sentinels.

Throughout the map, SEN stayed a step ahead of LOUD. A strong 8-4 attacker side gave way to a solid defense. Even winning the second pistol round was not enough to get LOUD in touching distance. The confident 13-9 finish put Sentinels up a map.

Next up was SEN’s Split. Even though they had lost to LOUD on this map in their opener, this was a different SEN. We all saw them crush NRG on Split the day before. Many didn’t expect SEN to do it again, this time to LOUD. While it wasn’t 11-1, SEN’s defense was stalwart, denying LOUD. Even in impossible scenarios, SEN still managed to come out favorably, like Zekken taking two LOUD players with him as a rocket is launched into his face.

The 9-3 half from SEN gave them all the momentum they needed to close out. Another 13-3 win on Split gave them the 2-0 lead in the series. Only one more map was needed to be crowned champions.

A Comeback Begins

Up next was LOUD’s Icebox pick. Of all the maps in the series, this one was most likely to be LOUD-favored. LOUD quickly enforced that fact when, despite losing the pistol, they took an 8-4 attacker half. However, SEN didn’t go down as easily as LOUD had hoped. After SEN lost the second pistol, they forced up and beat LOUD down on the anti-eco.

The economy stayed in SEN’s favor as they put round after round on the board. Soon, their deficit was erased, and SEN even led 11-10 at one point. They could close out here and now. Instead, LOUD buckled down and asserted dominance for the first time in all series. The Brazilian squad repelled SEN’s aggression for three straight rounds to escape Icebox 13-11 narrowly. It was a close win, but the comeback was now on.

Bind was up next. Neither team favored this map too much, with only three games played between them both. Still, SEN saw Leviatán beat LOUD earlier in groups and hoped to emulate that success. In the end, it was an unfaithful recreation. SEN’s defense on Bind looked paper thin as LOUD ran them ragged. Just three rounds were all SEN found in the first half. They couldn’t keep up with that pace on their attack and fell 13-8, setting the series up for a fifth and final game.

Sentinels Steal Home

Lotus was the only map left over. Overall, Lotus’s sample size was even lower than Bind’s. LOUD hadn’t shown their Lotus once at Kickoff, and SEN played it against the last-place team in their group. This was a battle of the unknown, and only the best on the day would come out on top.

Right off the bat, the pistol round came down to a tense 1v1 between Sacy and LOUD’s IGL Matias “saadhak” Delipetro. Sentinels then breezed through the anti-eco and crushed LOUD on the bonus round, putting all the momentum on their side.

This round saw the beginning of a pattern. Sentinels had the perfect answer to everything LOUD wanted to do on the A side of the map. When it came to preparation, SEN looked superior in every way. LOUD only managed to win two rounds on defense. The damage was done, and SEN had a 10-2 lead to play with. After three rounds, Sentinels had their weapons and were more ready than ever. They shut down LOUD in the final two rounds of the game to claim a 13-4 win and the VCT Americas Kickoff.

With this win at the VCT Americas Kickoff, Sentinels is finally back at the top. It’s been a while since they and their massive fan base has gotten to relish in this feeling. SEN took the most challenging road and won it all in the end. We’ll be seeing more of this team soon at VCT Masters Madrid. It’s shaping up to be an incredibly stacked tournament, and SEN bringing back-to-back international titles to the Americas would be the capstone of their redemption story.