nawwk shines as Apeks advance to ESL Challenger League S45 grand final over Monte
Apeks are through to the ESL Challenger League Season 45 Europe grand final after besting Monte in a three-map series, conceding their Ancient pick (13-16) before bouncing back on Mirage with the reverse scoreline (16-13) and prevailing on Anubis (22-20) after two sets of overtime.
|ESL Challenger League Season 45 Europe|
Apeks owe a large amount of their thanks to Tim "nawwk" Jonasson, whose above-average form at the BLAST.tv Paris Major has seemingly carried over as the team return to their usual online habitat. The Swede closed in on 100 kills over the three-map affair (96-56 K-D in total) and was by and large his team's best performer with a 1.39 rating.
The Damjan "kyxsan" Stoilkovski-led lineup are now one win over Spirit Academy away from a spot at ESL Pro League Season 18, which will play out on August 30-October 1. The European and Russian-majority rosters will lock horns on Sunday at 16:00 for a chance to earn that berth, with Apeks entering the best-of-five with a one-map disadvantage after coming through the lower bracket.
The consolidation final between Apeks and Monte was one of the highlight fixtures of the entire competition, which runs a double-elimination bracket encompassing all 24 teams. The two squads, who both currently reside within the top 10, raised eyebrows back at the BLAST.tv Paris Major after making surprising runs all the way to the playoffs, setting the stage for an enticing battle for a spot in the final.
Monte picked up victories over FURIA, fnatic, and Natus Vincere en route to a place in the quarter-finals. Apeks, meanwhile, managed to go one step further and reached the semi-finals in France, defeating Liquid in front of the Accor Arena before being felled by Vitality to earn a top-four finish at the $1.25 million spectacle.
Alas, it was Monte who enjoyed a better start to the must-win series, battling through the numerous tech pauses at the outset of Ancient to nurture a slender 8-7 lead by the end of their CT-side effort. From there, it was Volodymyr "Woro2k" Veletniuk who the Ukrainian-majority roster turned to in order to convert their first-half advantage. The 21-year-old went above and beyond the call of duty with 29 frags — trading blows with Joakim "jkaem" Myrbostad, who ended the map with 30 kills of his own — to guide Monte to victory on Apeks' map pick, 16-12.
Mirage was a similar story to begin with, and it didn't take long for Monte to once again build an advantage by the interval. Szymon "kRaSnaL" Mrozek and Viktor "sdy" Orudzhev joined forces for the Ukrainian roster on the T-side, putting up 27 kills between the two to spearhead a 9-6 half in their team's favor. Regardless, nawwk entered his element once it was Apeks' turn to go on the offensive, with the Swedish marksman coming alive with key clutches and impactful rounds time and time again to allow his side to steal away Mirage, 16-13, and equalize the score, 1-1.
This standout performance from nawwk, who had a solid performance at the Major in France as well, spurred Apeks on once the Anubis decider rolled around; the European outfit sat on a 9-6 buffer by the break — their first half-time lead in the series — even despite a recovery coming out of the Ukrainian side. Regardless, this three-round cushion proved to be too small a margin for Apeks to work with in regulation, and instead two sets of overtime were needed for kyxsan and company to earn their spot in the grand final 22-20, 2-1.
|Apeks||K - D||+/-||ADR||Rating 2.0|
|96 - 56||+40||84.8||1.39|
|80 - 73||+7||90.8||1.23|
|66 - 66||0||79.5||0.99|
|65 - 79||-14||77.6||0.99|
|51 - 69||-18||60.2||0.80|
|Monte||K - D||+/-||ADR||Rating 2.0|
|86 - 67||+19||90.2||1.27|
|71 - 67||+4||73.9||1.11|
|65 - 70||-5||68.4||0.99|
|56 - 71||-15||72.6||0.92|
|64 - 85||-21||73.1||0.86|
Apeks will now begin preparing for their grand final affair versus Spirit Academy on Sunday. The two teams have already faced each other once already in ESL Challenger League, with the Russian-majority lineup triumphing after a hard-fought 2-1 affair in the upper bracket final (Anubis 16-14, Nuke 13-16, Vertigo 16-8).
kyxsan's men will be looking to exact revenge on their opponents in this do-or-die matchup, however, with a place at ESL Pro League Season 18 in Malta, another tier-one LAN for Apeks to potentially try their hand at, being on the line in the best-of-five.