Week three of the NSE Winter competition brought us the final matches of the qualification stage, determining which 16 teams would enter the Championship bracket. As the only two undefeated teams remaining in the Winter qualification, the game between Loughborough and Staffordshire would promise to be an exciting clash of titans to decide which team would enter the Championship Bracket as the top seed and favourite to win the tournament.
After Staffordshire’s dominant performance against Abertay Dundee last week, it was no surprise to see them settle for an even more aggressive map during their map bans; Coastline. Starting on the defence, they chose to go to the Kitchen/Service bomb sites first, rather than the more predictable Hookah/Billiards.
Staffordshire played a relatively extended hold; creating a rotation from Service into Lobby and playing a roamer in Office to deny the attacker’s entry into the building. Loughborough, however, were consistently able to take map control, particularly into Office, and were able to win the first two rounds simply by overwhelming the Staffordshire side, planting the defuser and playing for the post-plant, where Stunt picked up a quick triple kill in the first round.
Staffordshire were able to pick up round three after moving to the Hookah/Billiards site, but Loughborough continued to dominate as they quickly struck back to make it 3-1 after a crazy fourth round where Loughborough rushed into the Kitchen site through the window. All of which is hard to describe in words, so here are a couple of clips!
Round Six brought an impressive early round kill from Gilbutt as he shot from ruins onto Nahte on the Sunrise Bar window very early in the round:
Staffordshire ended up losing this round with Gopnik also going down in Sunrise Bar as Loughborough forced their way in. Despite a valiant effort from the remaining defenders, it was an easy round win in the end for Loughborough.
Entering their defensive half with a 5-1 lead, Loughborough replicated the extended setup Staffordshire deployed on the Kitchen/Service bomb sites, albeit with better results. Meanwhile, Staffordshire struggled to maintain their morale after their disappointing defensive half as they failed to coordinate an effective attack against Loughborough’s defensive strategies. Loughborough would end their dominant performance against Staffordshire with a flawless round to close out the game in a 7-1.
Out of their six defensive rounds, Staffordshire picked Kitchen/Service on three occasions but were unable to win any. It was clear they had a default setup in mind but were unable to prevent Loughborough from getting early control and rarely got the opening kill. Staffordshire were only able to get the opening kill on two occasions; one was traded, the other a Loughborough team-kill. The latter arguably won Staffordshire their only round after they struggled to capitalise on Loughborough’s mistakes without their talisman of Number.-3.
Loughborough’s aggression led to early kills and increased control over both the map and the pace of the rounds. Despite the possible flexibility of attacking operator compositions on Coastline, Loughborough never changed their lineup as every round the same players picked the same operators. Consistency was evidently key for them despite some mistakes; mistakes that they will hope to iron out over the coming weeks of the tournament.
Loughborough’s win over Staffordshire secured them the top seed of the Championship Bracket and an early night as the other teams continued to battle for qualification. After three weeks of swiss, the original 70+ teams of this tournament has been whittled down to only 16, but who are they?
|Swansea Storm Green||Swansea|
|Liverpool Arctic Foxes||Liverpool|
|I like ya cut G||Derby|
|Sledge Hill||Edge Hill|
Staffordshire lost their second match of the night to the Watt Wyverns of Heriot-Watt University as they qualified as the 6th seed of the Championship Bracket. They’ll be pleased that their better performances during the first two weeks secured them their place in the Championship and leaves them with the chance to follow in their predecessor’s footsteps of being crowned the NSE’s Champions.
Meanwhile, Heriot-Watt’s victory over Staffordshire will secure them the second seed of the tournament. As a team with low seeding at the start of the qualification stage, they are one of the more surprising qualifiers of the tournament and will certainly be worth keeping an eye on as we progress further into the competition.
Joining these three teams, we see Derby, Swansea, Liverpool and Leeds all return to the Championship Bracket as Universities which have traditionally excelled in this competition. Surprisingly, neither Brunel nor Lancaster managed to qualify this season as both currently sit outside of the top 32, despite the latter being the runner up in both the Winter and Spring tournaments last year.
Elsewhere, Newcastle will be very pleased to see two of their teams qualify whilst Cardiff and Edge Hill have both made the big step up from division three to make it into the Championship bracket with the latter narrowly qualifying thanks to an overtime win against King's College London.
Be sure to tune into our livestream this Thursday at 7pm GMT as we further whittle our 16 Championship teams down to 12 ready for the best of 3 stages.