It was a rocky weekend for Oceania’s best and there’s plenty of work to do, but tonight will be one for celebration for Grayhound Gaming who toppled JiJieHao International 2-0 (16-11, 16-12) to qualify for the IEM Rio Major.
Coming off a less-than-convincing 2-1 win over Rare Atom and a shellacking at the hands of IHC, Grayhound were made to work for their ticket to Rio in Sunday’s decider match against the Middle Eastern qualifiers.
The Boys were trounced 16-2 by Rare Atom on Ancient in Friday’s opener, but the ‘Hounds relished the CT start against JiJieHao. A 10-5 half could have easily swung the other way if it weren’t for Declan “Vexite” Portelli (19-15, 1.08 rating) landing critical 1v2 clutches back-to-back.
““There’s no words that can describe the feeling right now,” said Vexite to Snowball Esports after the series concluded.
“The energy we had and the effort we put into that game is insane. We’re still only two months into this line-up — it’s f*****g baffling, there’s nothing that can match this.”
The Aussies (and Kiwi) held off a fast-finishing Israeli core 16-11, snatching the Ancient pick from JiJieHao, and with INSferno coming up, The Boys were in prime position to prepare for a Brazilian holiday.
But JiJieHao came out of the gates swinging; Maoz “BluePho3nix” Paz (20-20, 1.13 rating) found incredible impact and numerous multikills, while Vadim “DavCost” Vasilyev (19-13, 1.17 rating) finally got his hands on a sniper rifle and proved his worth.
Throw in a couple of classic OCE anti-eco losses, and Grayhound found themselves facing a five round deficit at the break.
But Alistair “aliStair” Johnston came to life on defence. A two-kill T half was quickly forgotten as Grayhound’s AWPer flexed his abilities on the Big Green.
Grayhound would close out the match with an 11-2 CT half, led from the beginning by team captain Joshua “INS” Potter (21-16, 1.36 rating).
The win means the line-up’s core will make their second appearance at a Major this year after they, as well as Mongolian squad IHC, qualified for the PGL Antwerp Major in April.
Vexite, however, becomes the 22nd Oceanic representative at a CS:GO Major, with his debut in Rio coming months behind Justin “jks” Savage as the youngest Aussie debutant at the pinnacle CS:GO tournament.
And while tonight is sure to be a massive celebration for the team and organisation, Vexite knows the real work begins now.
“I’d be pretty biased right now, because we just played obviously, but after some review we’ll look at this weekend objectively. We definitely have to do better for the Major if we want to go where we want to go but we’re just going to give it our all.
“There’s definitely some very, very good moments from this event that we’re f*****g proud of, and some very, very bad moments too, but we’ll be working on those for Rio.”
The 18-year-old has gone from strength-to-strength across 2022, posting an impressive 1.18 rating so far this year as he continues to settle into a new role at a new team.
As coach David “Kingfisher” Kingsford said to Snowball Esports after the win over Rare Atom, Vexite ha brought new energy and life to the squad outside of the server.
But it’s what he’s doing in the server from a leadership perspective that is guiding Grayhound to their first Major as an organisation since StarLadder Berlin 2019.
“We kicked the team off with a big chat before we did anything on the server,” said Vexite. “We spoke about what we actually want from the team and to make sure our goals were aligned. The energy was very high, we knew where everyone felt or was at in the game, everyone just f*****g loves the game and wants to give it their all.
“All I kind of did was brought more of a voice in and out of the game in terms of discussion and calling — I’ve been sort of second-calling the team on T side and calling some stuff on CT as well. When someone like Josh [INS] is there to learn from, it’s really, really good.”
The team will be on the drinks tonight but have plenty to do before they kick off the Challenger Stage in Rio. While it was crucial they qualified for the Major, they weren’t as convincing as fans had hoped.
The series against Rare Atom was dotted with errors and at one point was an aliStair 4 HP 1v2 away from losing. Following that was the sides’ third straight loss to Mongolian squad IHC this year, who are yet to drop a map to the Grayhound core.
Coupled with a defeat at the Fortress OCE Masters to Vertex and a whirlwind two months outside of the server, and with just 21 days until the Major begins, one wonders just how far GH will manage in Rio.
It’s not something on Vexite’s mind at the moment, though.
“For Rio? There’s not much to say really yet, we’ll be taking it as it goes and see what happens. We’re going to try our best to keep our preparation and work ethic we’ve maintained throughout this event going into Rio and just give it our all.”
Nevertheless, Oceania have their Major reps once again. Now, focus turns to Sunday night’s European matchups, with former Grayhound Chris “Dexter” Nong just one best-of-three away from joining his former squad in Brazil.