With the rise of esports, major competitions like MLG, IEM and ESL made their entry into the scene. In smaller regions like Belgium and The Netherlands, ESL Benelux has to be the biggest event where teams can measure their strength. This season of ESL promised to be an exciting one, with Sector One as defending champions and Dutch powerhouses as New Dynasty, Echo Zulu and mCon esports to be this year’s favorites. Among qualified teams came Sector One Black, a fresh lineup made of Sector One community members, once hoping to test themselves against bigger names, now Benelux’ biggest underdog story. We take a look into Sector One Black’s final weeks of ESL Benelux.

Coming strong into the qualifiers and relegations, Sector One Black proved to be worthy of participating in this year’s season of ESL Benelux. With a fresh lineup with no competitive experience, they found themselves among their region’s most powerful teams. Apart from 2 wins, against Avenue and SSKKRRTTTT, they struggled throughout the rest of the competition, and lost 4 other games, leaving them in the 6th spot only 1 week before the end of the group stage. With Vengeance and mCon at 3 wins and 4 losses, S1 Black’s only hope of ending 4th, and qualifying, was by defeating mCon and hoping for a victory of New Dynasty over Vengeance, forcing a 3-way tiebreaker. With a new midlaner and an interesting draft, they managed to take down mCon in under 28 minutes, winning the 3-way tie by having the fastest victory. Finishing the group stage in 4th place, Sector One Black managed to do what no one believed possible: qualifying for the semifinals of ESL Benelux.

ESL Benelux - Greatest Underdog Story Ever Told - Maarten Phoenix Van Dyck

"They always said BO1 is coinflip and in BO3 the better team wins. That's why we won." - Phoenix upon winning ESL Benelux.

On Friday the 22nd of June, one day prior to the semifinals and finals, with support of Sector One, S1 Black moved into a house close by the ESL studio to prepare for next day’s games. This would be the first time all 5 players (Phoenix, Tafikay, Baba Yaga, Mytheos and Bartiono) and mental coach Jerry would meet and have the chance to bond and discuss tactics.
As they had nothing to lose, there didn’t seem to be any form of stress. Everyone seemed excited to get the opportunity to play the semifinals, and enjoyed the experience of being there. This reflected on their preparation, as the first thing they did upon arrival was to sit down, grab a drink and watch World Cup football together as a form of bonding.
After watching the game, the time had come for some preparations for ESL. Together they watched and analysed VODs of all professional LoL games of that day, looking for some inspiration and ideas for a possible game plan.
After having reviewed all games, Sector One Black drove into the city of Amsterdam to have dinner together, to clear their minds and wash away any remaining stress for the day to come.
Finally, back at their residence, Tafikay and his team sat together and decided the final drafts and strategies they were going to play, hoping to stunt against their big brother: Sector One’s main LoL team.

Saturday, 23rd of June, the day had come for Sector One Black to prove everyone what they were made of. As no one believed it to be possible for them to win ESL Benelux, they had nothing to lose being the underdogs. Expressions like “This year’s edition of ESL Benelux will be very exciting, instead of 1 very dominant team, we have 3 strong teams and Sector One Black” and “Whoever faces Sector One Black gets a free victory” found their way to the players, but resulted into an even bigger underdog position. With a strong mentality and great focus, the players went into their first duel, hoping to steal away at least 1 win. Thanks to their almost flawless execution, against all odds in, they managed to win the first game. Suddenly, everything seemed to have turned in their favor and Sector One Black felt confident going into game number two. Again by sticking to their draft and playing almost flawlessly, they managed to defeat Sector One’s main LoL lineup, securing their spot in the finals.
Immediately after the game, you could feel the tension rise. No one could believe what just happened. Players were very excited, yet sad for being the cause of defeat for Sector One’s other team. However, with no time to lose, as the finals were only a few hours away, the players sat down together to watch and analyse how New Dynasty secured their victory against Echo Zulu. Finally, with help of Sector One’s main coach Daniel “Exorant” Hume, they decided the final picks and strategies they were going to play and focused on their win conditions.

Once time had come, the players gathered outside for a small pep talk, and set up for their moment of glory against New Dynasty.
With an impressive draft and by sticking to their gameplan, they managed to take victory in game 1 and hoped to snowball their momentum going into the next game. Suddenly, S1 Black was only 1 win away from winning ESL Benelux and defending Sector One’s title. Nerves started to rise and mistakes happened. After having a lead in the second game, a sudden moment of distraction resulted in a quick defeat. Sector One Black had been the stress-free underdogs with nothing to lose up to that point, they suddenly were in the decisive game for the ESL Benelux’ championship and had everything to lose. Their lack of experience now worked against them, but thanks to a very strong mindset, teamspirit and help from their coaches, they managed to calm down and went into game 3 with only victory in their mind’s eye.

ESL Benelux - Greatest Underdog Story Ever Told - Team is underpressure

Sector One Black, seconds away from winning ESL Benelux in a nerve-wracking final.

With a very oppressive draft by New Dynasty, Sector One Black experienced a rough start to their last game. Due to a poke-heavy bot- and midlane, early game went in New Dynasty’s favor. Despite the loss of turrets and objectives, Sector One Black stayed calm and collected, and kept searching for win conditions. With impressive punishments of New Dynasty’s mistakes, they managed to turn the game around and  finish in one of the most nerve-breaking ways possible.

What no one believed to be possible, happened. Sector One Black, the underdogs, defeated New Dynasty and thus won the ESL Benelux championship title. The defeat of Sector One’s main team had been washed away, and the Sector One community proved to be the strongest in Benelux. Topping off the day, Sector One rewarded their players with a champion’s dinner, and after a long celebration, players returned home with the ESL Benelux trophy. As coach Exorant said “What a day. I have won the TCL, played in MSI, but this is a day that I will never forget”.