Apeks triumph in tight battle with Spirit Academy to qualify for ESL Pro League
Apeks have defeated Spirit Academy 3-2 in a hotly-contested series to win ESL Challenger League Season 45 Europe. With this victory Apeks have qualified for the next season of ESL Pro League, which kicks off August 30.
Spirit Academy had already taken some impressive scalps on their way to the final, defeating the likes of FORZE and Monte before taking down Apeks 2-1 in the upper final. This upper final win secured Spirit Academy a one-map advantage for the grand final. Apeks also secured some solid wins, beating 9INE, 1WIN and Monte to set up a rematch with Spirit Academy.
Inferno was the first map of the series, an Apeks pick, and it treated the European squad well. They kicked off on the T side and romped to an 11-round return thanks to excellent work from Justinas "jL" Lekavicius and Tim "nawwk" Jonasson. Apeks then ran with a second-half pistol victory to a 15-4 score, and so despite a spirited attempt at a comeback from their opponents, they eventually converted a 16-12 victory.
Mirage was a far closer affair, with each team putting together streaks of rounds but being unable to pull away from their opponents. There was so little to separate the two teams that overtime was needed, but there Apeks’ superior experience showed as they stepped up their level and bagged a 19-16 win, putting themselves within a map of taking the trophy.
The opening stages of Anubis were a complete blowout in favor of Apeks as they ran out to a comfortable 6-0 lead on their offense, but Spirit Academy made the right adjustments to their CT side and put up a streak of their own for an 8-7 half. Apeks had little to offer on their defense, at one point suffering the ignominy of losing to what was virtually a full-eco, and Spirit Academy ran out 16-11 winners to force a decider.
Overpass served as the decider, and it was another hard-fought map between the two sides. The first half was back-and-forth, with neither team able to string more than three rounds together. Spirit Academy were taking control as the half wore on but jL repeatedly popped up with high-impact rounds, keeping the score close at 7-8.
The map continued to be close at the start of the second half, with both teams fighting tooth and nail to get rounds on the board. jL, however, started to provide the raw fragging to back his first-half impact, and in the dying stages of the game this added firepower helped Apeks to break Spirit Academy’s economy, granting them a 16-12 win to seal the series.
|Spirit Academy||K - D||+/-||ADR||Rating 2.0|
|92 - 88||+4||88.0||1.16|
|84 - 76||+8||78.3||1.11|
|76 - 66||+10||59.2||1.05|
|75 - 73||+2||67.4||1.04|
|61 - 88||-27||67.6||0.85|
|Apeks||K - D||+/-||ADR||Rating 2.0|
|89 - 65||+24||74.7||1.15|
|88 - 86||+2||84.5||1.14|
|77 - 86||-9||71.9||0.97|
|63 - 73||-10||67.0||0.93|
|72 - 80||-8||67.9||0.91|
With their run to top-four at the BLAST Paris Major, Apeks cemented the success of a project that threatened to fall apart late last year, with the team withdrawing from all competition in September amidst a torrid run of form. The addition of Damjan "kyxsan" Stoilkovski at the start of 2023 powered improved results in online competitions, they then shocked the world with their immense run at the Major, and now they have secured a spot in ESL Pro League for themselves.
Spirit Academy have been one of the surprise packages of the year in tier two, outshone by the exploits of teams like Monte and Apeks, but nonetheless building a solid resume for themselves. So far in 2023 they have been promoted from ESEA Advanced, placed top-four in CCT West Europe Series 2 and second in CCT Central Europe Series 5, and now have a second-place finish in Challenger League to show for their efforts.
The success of Spirit Academy has been built on immense performances from Myroslav "zont1x" Plakhotia, Artem "ArtFr0st" Kharitonov, and most importantly Danil "donk" Kryshkovets. The latter came into the final as the highest-rated player in the event, and finished with a mightily impressive 1.29 rating over 13 maps against top-30 opposition. Considering the recent struggles of the main Spirit team, it would be no shock to see some of their potent youngsters getting the call up in the near future.