Sentinels: “We wanted to show how good the core of this team is”
Just a day before the start of VALORANT Champions Tour Masters One, all eyes turned to Sentinels, but not for the right reasons. Following the suspension of Jay “sinatraa” Won, Sentinels needed a fifth player just before the clock struck midnight. Thankfully, they found salvation in Tyson “TenZ” Ngo, a former member of the Cloud9 roster who would return to pro play after months away.
With a freshly added player and no time to prep, many questioned how far one of the consensus best teams in North America would go. The questions have been answered, and the conversation has been flipped after two victories over the first weekend. Sentinels dispatched Luminosity then 100 Thieves to earn a spot in the upper bracket final. After their win over 100T, Sentinels’ Michael “dapr” Gulino and Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan sat down with Hotspawn to discuss playing with TenZ, playing against 100T’s Ethan, and what they expect from babybay and FaZe Clan.
Hotspawn: Did you anticipate coming into Masters with a sub and little prep and being this successful so far?
dapr: No, to say I expected it is a little egotistical. I was realistically okay with any result, even if we bowed out 0-2. The fact that we made it to the upper bracket finals this way is insane to me, but it says so much about how well the core of this team plays. Albeit TenZ is just a fucking amazing player. It’s definitely a combination of our system in place, along with how good he is. I feel like we could slot in any player not as good as TenZ, to be honest, but it definitely makes it easier that he’s insane.
ShahZaM: Obviously, the news caught us off guard, and we were scrambling the day before Masters to get a sub. We had dizzy on board just in case, but we were unanimously into playing with TenZ. He’d fit in perfectly; I’d let him take the Jett roles and just pick up on Sova. He’s the most talented player we could have gotten, but I hope this shows how well we’ve built this team. People can flex agents whenever necessary, and we stick to our protocols. Any situation we face, we’ll find a way to make it work.
Hotspawn: Does playing with fewer expectations give you guys more confidence to play riskier or more aggressively?
Dapr: At the end of the day, we’re still the number one team in NA. There’s still pressure that makes me want to prove that. We lost a player but still have our core four. There’s still expectations, at least ones I put on myself. The core of this team is deadly.
ShahZaM: It goes both ways; TenZ is such a hype pick-up. There’s a ton of media coverage and news surrounding the loan and this tournament and how we play, so there’s pressure on us to perform. But I’m just happy with the way we’re playing.
Hotspawn: From just a VALORANT perspective, is this the epitome of “making the best of a bad situation”?
Dapr: Definitely. I mean, there’s no other way to put it. While we’re talking, I’m moving tomorrow because my apartment’s pipes burst. Literally, after these interviews, I’m packing all my stuff and leaving. I’m going to practice in my teammate’s apartment. It’s literally the worst of the worst, but we’re making it work.
ShahZaM: Every tournament, we’ve faced some limiting situations, from First Strike to Challengers 2 to now. But this team has won of the best mentals of any group of guys I’ve played with.
Hotspawn: TenZ was going glass cannon every round in overtime on Haven. Was that his call?
Dapr: Yeah, we liked it. I actually called for him to buy the Op so I could push down mid. He wasn’t doing anything aggro, and he was playing for the team. His opening picks on the defense side definitely slowed down their momentum.
ShahZaM: We were definitely encouraging him to be himself. It’s up to him if he wants to Op or rifle; none of the guys would tell me to Op or rifle when I played Jett. We really focused on the bigger picture of the round and plugged him in as needed.
Hotspawn: You played against Ethan today after he recently switched over to VALORANT; what’s the ceiling for him going forward?
Dapr: He’s a phenomenal player. He always owned me in CS:GO. The sky’s the limit for him. Obviously, the roles are very substantial, but he could definitely be the best Omen in NA.
ShahZaM: Ethan was an amazing CS:GO player. Right before his switch, he was still at the top of the scene. I expect him to be a dominant player in VALORANT as well. You can tell he’s putting in the effort.
Hotspawn: What role do you see him taking on going forward?
Dapr: You really don’t know what’s going on in the 100 Thieves discussion. I’d like to see him on duelist; it would help him shine better.
ShahZaM: It’s whatever role he feels comfortable with. If he’s comfortable with the smokes character, that’s fine. I think it’s fine to have someone that can frag out really well on one of those characters. At the end of the day, it comes down to a lot of gunplay, and he can be in the back to close down rounds.
Hotspawn: You are now burdened with the challenge of preparing for FaZe. What do you think has been the biggest contributor to their current form?
Dapr: Babybay has been playing fantastic and is creating a lot of space for them. Every game I watch, it’s him at the helm making plays, but all five of them have been hitting shots. They’re really confident; if babybay goes down early, they can all clutch.
ShahZaM: There’s a lot of hype around them right now. They’re playing kind of similar to how we start out games: in your face, brute-forcing into sites. In this tournament, they’ve proven to be a true contender beating Envy, but we have a lot of confidence going in since we’ve always historically won this matchup.