The San Francisco Shock routed the Vancouver Titans 4-0 in front of a sold out Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia Sunday afternoon to capture the 2019 Overwatch League championship.
A disappointing end for the Canucks Sports & Entertainment owned Titans who finished with the overall best record in the league during the regular season at 25-3. Still, as one of eight expansion franchises (that also included the Toronto Defiant) that joined the league, there are worse ways to end an inaugural year than coming one win away from winning it all.
“It’s a mixed bag of emotions,” said Tim Holloway, director of esports at Canucks Sports & Entertainment ownership group Aquilini Entertainment, said over the phone shortly after Vancouver’s loss. “But to go out there and be on the biggest stage and, unfortunately, not be able to get the big win hurts and stings.
“I was just with the guys and I couldn’t be more proud of them, and I know Canucks Sports & Entertainment couldn’t be more, either. We’re a first-year team in a league and everybody was a first-year rookie and given the incredible success we had during the regular season and to make it to the championship we’re all looking forward to Season 2 and building off this.”
There was a lot of hype for the expansion roster the Titans announced coming into the 2019 OWL season because nearly the entire squad was comprised of players from what was considered the best Overwatch esports team not in the OWL, a South Korean team called Runaway.
Before being announced as the new roster of the Titans, Runaway won a championship together in the best Tier 2 league in the world, Overwatch Contenders Korea.
This pedigree came with lots of expectation heading into this group of players making the jump to the major league, and from the outset it looked like they’d have no problems doing so, going undefeated in Stage 1 and emerging as Stage 1 Final champions, beating the Shock 4-3.
Then Stage 2 came around and, by all measures, the Titans looked just as strong as in Stage 1 but when they saw the Shock once again in the Stage 2 Final, they suffered their first ever defeat, and at the same time began a rivalry with San Francisco that would end up defining the entire season.
The Titans and Shock were the two best teams all season long and entered Sunday’s Grand Final with an even 2-2 record against one another, including a perfect 11-11 split of the maps they played.
The teams were so evenly matched that even the two sides’ best players, American Jay “Sinatraa” Won on the Shock and the Titans’ Hyo-jong “Haksal” Kim of South Korea are known best for their Doomfist hero play. Additionally, Sinatraa winning league MVP and Haksal taking rookie of the year.
Something had to give and, unfortunately for Vancouver, it ended up being the Titans who were unable to match the level of the Shock and their Grand Finals MVP tank player Hyo-bin “ChoiHyoBin” Choi.
“It was an incredible rivalry, especially for the fans. This was the two best teams going head-to-head and it was great,” said Holloway. “I think this will only grow the rivalry for next year as well because I know the guys will be looking forward to a rematch next season.”
It wasn’t the way Titans wanted to see things end, but there will be some comfort knowing they’ll be able to get a chance at revenge against the Shock next season during their first homestand weekend.
Vancouver is scheduled to play San Francisco for the first time since this defeat in the Grand Finals on May 17 in Rogers Arena.