The Pittsburgh Knights hit a milestone Friday with their win over Rise. It was not only their first VALORANT Champions Tour victory, but also their first map win in Stage 1 Challengers on anything other than Ascent. The first-time main event organization had only one map win coming into the match, on Ascent in an overtime win against Sentinels, and took Ascent in their first map against Rise. Coming into VCT, Knights had a 20-0 record on the fourth map introduced to VALORANT in 2022. But according to the players, that wasn’t really on their mind going into their first match against Version1.
“To be honest, we knew our Ascent was good, but we didn’t even realize we were on a 20-game winning streak until we recently saw our stream back,” Knights’ Joseph “ban” Seungmin Oh said after their Week 1 match up.
Against Rise, the team was down 9-3 going into the second half. But with a strong defensive composition, with Astra and Sage, they managed to pull out a comeback, despite 21 games of tape on their defensive setups and the round deficit. According to the team’s in-game leader Ashton “Frosty” Rakoske, Knights don’t practice Ascent as much as they do other maps, as the team already has a pretty decent understanding of the timings and angles.
“Sometimes like things just click like, you understand the map,” he said after their win on Friday. “You know what’s happening. We’re trying to find that [next] map, another map like Ascent for us.”
Adding another map to their repertoire, at the same level of understanding, could help Knights make the playoff stage. The team is already staring down the barrel of potential elimination thanks to their 0-2 start, and with a schedule of NRG Esports and OpTic Gaming still left to play, having more than one go-to map is a must.
But the team expected a steep learning curve. Knights had to get accustomed to the practice schedule and level of preparation needed to compete at the top level. Along with that, most of the players on the Knights roster are young, with VALORANT as their first esport, and have spent most of the time on Knights playing in Tier 2 events, albeit with some decent results against Tier 1 teams.
“This team is going to be really good with the right players. Everyone on the team is really young in terms of their career age as well so everyone is learning,” ban said.
For ban, Logan “skuba” Jenkins and frosty VALORANT is their first professional title. Amgalan “Genghsta” Nemekhbayar played Counter-Strike for a short time and Damion “XXiF” Cook competed in Fortnite starting in 2018 before switching to VALORANT in 2020, so even the veterans have only been in esports for a short time, especially compared to other players in their group like Pujan “FNS” Mehta or James “hazed” Cobb.
Ban said they came into Week 1 with a few nerves, but at the end of Week 3 frosty said the team had “a lot more confidence now” with the win as everyone is eyeing a reverse sweep in the group to make it to playoffs. With three series under his belt in Tier 1 competition, frosty said he’s leveled up as an in-game leader and can better help his team make calls.
“I feel like I’ve grown a lot more, being able to just identify what we need to do to win or why we’re winning, so that we can keep winning,” he said.
As the youngest player on his team, frosty said he he had to prove himself to earn his teammates’ respect to be where he is as the in-game leader. Now Knights will need to prove themselves in Tier 1 to get the same kind of respect from the rest of the VALORANT community.