Vitality reflects on Rocket League world championship win
NEWARK, New Jersey -- Thirteen seconds. That was the time it took for Renault Vitality to keep the game alive. Down by one point, the European Rocket League powerhouse juggled the ball into extended time, saving it each time it came close to hitting the ground and giving their opponent a first game victory in the best-of-seven series of the Rocket League Championship Series Season 7 World Championship final.
In a pass from Alexandre "Kaydop" Courant, 21, the team's young Scottish star, 16-year-old Kyle "Scrub Killa" Robertson, made the clutch shot that sent the match into overtime. Kaydop, who throughout the June 21 to 23 weekend spoke very little in interviews, stood up out of excitement and let out a roar.
For the next four minutes and five seconds, both Vitality and their opponents, G2 Esports, fought back-and-forth, car-to-car in the vehicular soccer game, in what would prove to become a legendary opener in Rocket League history. Finally, Vitality hit the ball towards G2's goal and Victor "Fairy Peak" Locquet made the shot. Vitality had just made the comeback win.
The team's emotions exploded, with Kaydop, the two-time world champion and two-time runner-up screaming, "Let's go! Yes!"
With G2's spirits broken, the next 45 minutes went by like a breeze. Vitality lost only one game in the series, the fourth one, but quickly bounced back and won the fifth. As Scrub Killa, Fairy Peak and Kaydop exited off stage, confetti poured over their heads at the Prudential Center. Scrub Killa kissed the shining trophy, complete with a car and soccer ball on top. Vitality were the RLCS world champions.
For all three players, the win signified something special. For Fairy Peak, it marked his first world title, something he nearly achieved with Kaydop at his side in June 2017. Meanwhile, in his second season of eligibility, Scrub Killa achieved his potential. And in the third world championship title in his storied career, Kaydop reaffirmed the thought from the community and his fellow players that he is the greatest Rocket League player of all time.
"I've won with two lineups, so it makes this very special," Kaydop said in a post-match press conference.
Sunday marked the conclusion to a stellar weekend for Vitality and their players. The team lost just one series the entire weekend: a best-of-five against G2 during the group stage of the event. Sunday morning marked a quarterfinal that pit Vitality, the No. 1 seed, in the European arm of the Rocket League Championship Series, against NRG Esports, their equally seeded North American counterpart. That match and a semifinal against Cloud9 led to a chance of redemption against G2, but this time with $200,000 in prize money on the line.
For the last six months, as they've traveled throughout Europe and North America, this Vitality squad has tried to figure out what works and what doesn't. Ultimately, their biggest opponent was themselves.
"I've been saying all weekend, when people have asked if there were any teams we're scared of, I'd say it's [our] three players," team manager Mike "Gregan" Ellis said. "Because we are the best team when we play the best we can play, but the biggest fear for me is whether or not they'll hit that peak.
"Throughout the six months that we've been together, I've been trying to work out what environment they perform best in ... When they have fun, they play the best. That's the environment we tried to have today, that with a positive attitude, have fun and play our best, enjoy it. Once you get to the actual match day, you can't do anything. All of the preparation was done before this. The last thing you can do is have fun."
Leading that charge were Kaydop and Scrub Killa, but in different ways. Kaydop and Fairy Peak have competed in professional Rocket League since late 2015 and mid 2016 respectively, but Kaydop, the more seasoned veteran, kept the team's communication in check, the players said. Scrub Killa, who only became eligible just one season ago because of Rocket League's minimum age requirement of 15 years old, maintained their high morale.
"I just make good decisions," Kaydop said when asked what makes him now a three-time world champion. "Scrub Killa and Fairy Peak are amazing. You can't win alone. I think I bring good rotation and good communication. I try to motivate."
"His mindset is incredible," Gregan said. "When all of the players were asked if Kaydop was the best player in the world, every player said, 'yes.' Kaydop said, 'I don't care if I'm the best player in the world, I care if my team is the best team in the world.' That sums up how Kaydop plays; it's not about him, it's about the team."
When asked what advice he'd give opponents looking to remain hungry at competing in pro Rocket League, Kaydop paused.
"I don't know if it's good to give advice to others," Kaydop said, laughing.
What made Vitality special all weekend was communication, they said. In the past six months, they've tried to be honest with another and build relationships that extend out of game to help better their player in game. "We're all good friends, we all get along," Scrub Killa said.
"We trust each other and we speak a lot between the match," Fairy Peak continued. "If someone said something was wrong, we'd dedicate time to listen to it and try to fix it. We're really good friends now and that makes us a good team when we need to win."
On Tuesday, the three Vitality players will return home -- Kaydop and Fairy Peak to France, and Scrub Killa to Scotland. But in just two weeks, they'll reconvene and travel to Valencia, Spain, to face many of the teams who just wrapped up competing in the Season 7 World Championship in Newark.
"When's the next time you'll pick back up a controller?" a reporter asked the team."When I go home," Scrub Killa quickly responded.