iBUYPOWER Invitational Preview: Elevate
David ’Xp3’ Garrido
Tyler ’Storm’ Wood
William ‘RUSH’ Wierzba
Daniel ‘roca’ Gustaferri
Jonathan ‘EliGE’ Jablonowski
Finalist – ESL Online Qualifiers North America (lost to CLG)
Semi-finalist: Clutchcon LAN (defeated CLG 2-1, lost to Cloud9 0-2)
ESEA Season 18 Invite Record: 7-4
Members of eLevate have been a part of the ESEA Invite scene for six seasons now under various banners such as Cultivation, United5, and their current organization. During that stretch they’ve made the LAN finals three times, including last season, but have never done significant damage. The teams have always been similar in that they contained well known CS names like former 1.6 stars Danny ‘fr0d’ Montaner, Matt ‘Warden’ Dickens, Tyler ’Storm’ Wood, Sal ‘Volcano’ Garozzo, Jason ‘moses’ O’Toole, and David ‘Xp3’ Garrido. But despite the depth of experience, the transition between the games was not smooth and the ability to perform consistently was a struggle for the group. They continued to try out newer talents with a penchant for frags, which is how William “RUSH” Wierzba came to be a part of the roster. Despite qualifying for ESEA LANs, the team never made much of an impact there nor did they travel internationally for tournaments. In essence, eLevate became the gatekeepers of the upper echelons of ESEA Invite, only once having a negative record (7-9) and continually pushing even the most veteran teams to the brink but never quite managing to be a true threat either.
Longtime legends Dickens and Garozzo left the team during the off-season, which opened the door for up and coming players Daniel “roca” Gustaferri and Jonathan ‘EliGE’ Jablonowski. The former had spent time in CS:Source Invite towards the dying days of the game and saw limited action in the CS:GO Invite scene with teams like Reliable Gaming and Homeless. Jablonowski was a wildcard, with no high level experience until last season’s run through ESEA Premier as part of Team Winout. His impressive statistics during that season led to eLevate taking a chance on him.
This season started slow for the squad, who began ESEA Invite with four straight losses, two of those to a shaky Area51 and a rookie Denial team. But since then, eLevate has been on a tear. They made the finals of ESL Katowice’s online Qualifier (losing to CLG) and the Semi-Finals of the Clutchcon LAN in January, knocking off CLG in three maps before losing to Cloud9 in two. They have won five in a row in ESEA (along with two FFW’s) and now sit at 7-4 for the season and sport wins over CLG, Denial, and Liquid. And just to cap things off, they took down SKDC 2-0 in the first round of the CEVO P playoffs recently.
Elevate’s new pickups are leading the way, providing the fragging boost this team has desperately needed. At the time of writing this, Roca was #4 in ESEA Invite in Total Frags (203) while his teammate Elige was #1 with 227. Fellow teammate Rush was #3 on that list at 210 frags. The three newer players on the team are doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing – allowing veterans like Wood and Garrido to focus on the headier playmaking while the youngsters shoulder the fragging load. Former eLevate player and fellow ESEA staffer Jason ‘Moses’ O’Toole recently described eLevate’s style:
“As a team they don’t do anything special, their tactics seem to be based on the mantra “keep it simple”, and it works for them. The effectiveness of Elige and Rush’s fragging backed by the precision of Roca has done wonders for this team. Exchanging out Warden allowed this team to have more time for practice, and it is starting to show as they have improved from week to week and are winning those close matches instead of losing them. However, trusting the younger talent has its drawbacks in experience. At times there are over-extension and hyper-aggressive plays that have haunted them. One trait of a team that loses a lot of close games is that they usually make over-aggressive mistakes, and that’s something I see Elevate doing. That’s just the risk you take at times when you take young talent over experience.“
As always, Moses is correct. Consider this: Between CEVO and ESEA league this season, eLevate has won or lost 15 matches by an average margin of 1.4 rounds. Elevate can compete with anyone, regardless of who they are, but they’ll also give anyone a shot at beating them, and that makes them so difficult to get a read on. The mix of younger players and older veterans makes for an unpredictable, but potentially devastating combination. They drew Denial in the first round, a squad that recently knocked off Mythic in the CEVO playoffs and has been playing well in their own right. But eLevate had the upper hand in their most recent matchup in ESEA (16-14 on Cache) and I think the effort they’ve put in as a group will give them the edge against a Denial team that’s been making roster moves.
Could they win a potential second round matchup against CLG or Ascendancy? Absolutely, especially given that they’ve beaten CLG a few times this year already and Ascendancy is a solid underdog against either. If they win against Denial and DO face CLG, it will be fun to watch, but I think eLevate will fall short in the best of three against a motivated CLG crew. The two recently battled in CEVO-P playoffs in a similar Bo3 setting, and CLG came out on top 2-0. That being said, if eLevate made a run through this tournament, I wouldn’t be surprised. If history tells us anything, it’s that whatever result, eLevate should make it darned entertaining!
Preview by Brian ‘Rotaderp’ Antoszyk – ESEA News. Follow him on twitter: @antoszykb
(photo sources: HLTV.org, ESEA News, elevate.gg)