ROX Tigers let its spot in the playoffs slip through the claws at League of Legends Champions Korea 2018 Spring Split. While it seemed that the team was finally going to compete in the playoffs for the first time after Head Coach Hyun-jong'OnAir' Kang led the team, the Tigers had to let go of the Split after being forced off to 6th place because of a single set loss.
It is needless to emphasize OnAir's frustration about the season, as it was the last match of the Split against JinAirGreenWings that ROX lost to lose a spot in the playoffs. However, OnAir expressed his frustration on himself for not running a tight ship, not on his opponents, or JinAirGreenWings in particular.
"Head Coach Sang-Yong Han of GreenWings came to me after the match and told me he was sorry. But he shouldn't be sorry about a bout, and we wouldn't have been sorry even if we won. We weren't the teams with high expectations, but our players did great and we have high hopes for the next split. The guys were all frustrated, and I want their frustration to be shown through the performance at the next split. We would have loved it if we made it to the playoffs, but I was still quite satisfied to see that the guys are really motivated."
While the team's performance wasn't the best, the outcomes were quite hopeful. The players made rapid progress, and fans' responses changed too. In particular, Man-heung 'Lindarang' Heo and Seong-hwan 'SeongHwan' Yun were one of the most improved players.
The two players were in OnAir's team for the last three years including those in Afreeca Freecs. It was until the last season that Lindarang shared his appearances with Sang-myeon 'Shy' Park, and SeongHwan with Min-su 'Mightybear' Kim. On the 1st Split that these two began to play as a regular starter, OnAir commented, "They were given chances before, but weren't the main players. I believe they felt great responsibility of playing regular."
And direct feedback from OnAir due to coach's absence also influenced the team a lot. "Since the coach came to the team later than expected, we had to conduct scrims based on my one-on-one feedback. It would have been the first time for the players to be given feedbacks from the head coach. I poured them with questions to let them think what's best for them."
Tae-hoon 'Lava' Kim's extounding performance was also a great factor to ROX's 'beyond expectation' performance. "He's tricky, and we would become a better player in the next year or so unless he falls into idleness. He would be the pillar of the squad's shift in generations. As he started as a support, he was weak during laning phase, but he overcame his difficulties through roam or other means. I have high hopes for him."
Before the beginning of the Split, almost everyone believed that Seong-hyeok 'Kuzan' Lee would be starting the season, but he didn't. On this, OnAir commented, "I thought that it would take a while for him to adapt to the team. He was at JinAir for a quite a while, and with being in a new team I thought that he would need a while to adapt to the team's playstyle. Lava is getting a lot of advice from Kuzan. He debuted at a young age, and he's very experienced. I think the relationship between the two are synergizing both."
And we can't dare to miss out the stable bottom lane, as ADC Sang-yoon 'Sangyoon' Kwon and support Han-gi 'Key' Kim are bottom duo that is no less than any other duo in the strongest teams of LCK. Showing stable performance since last season, the two dependably waited for others to pick up their performance.
"The first year was about getting to know each other, and now it seems that we have actually become a team in harmony. At the earliest stages, the meta wasn't focused on bottom lane, so top and jungle should have done better but we had quite a difficult time. It is not easy for players to have faith in each other for a long time, but Sangyoon and Key waited for others to pick it up without complaining about it, and others finally rewarded their faith. The two have always shone on the most important matches, and were the firm pillar in where the team is currently standing."
The team's stable performance led to Hanwha Life Insurance's sponsorship at the beginning of the season, and on the 16th, after the end of the Spring Split, ROX Tigers League of Legends team was officially taken over by HanwhaLife Insurance.
Now the head coach of Hanwha Life eSports, OnAir has revealed that the firm's sponsorship meant a lot for the players.
"Hanwha Life came to our games quite often and took good care of our players. After the end of the split, we all went to see Hanwha 63 City. Those kind interests mean a lot for the players."
It was near the end of the Spring Split when OnAir acknowledged the news on the takeover. He kept the news to himself until the end of the Split to not make the players be too jazzed up and mess up the games, and they were ecstatic to hear the news after the Split.
"We are thankful to Hanwha Life about the takeover, and also to ROX GAMING for managing the team until now. Our team has always tried to come up with better performance, andbased on the developments of the players during the Spring Split, we will aim for a spot in Worlds for the Summer."
Nearing the end of the interview, OnAir commented, "we aim to go higher, and I hope the players keep their current attitude throughout the Summer Split. We know we can play well, and we have proved it last Split".
Slowly, but gradually improving, many are already having higher hopes for Hanwha Life eSports at the upcoming LCK Summer Split.
Translated by ROXCrew.
*This translation was provided through a partnership with the ROXGAMING.