After a shaky map one, followed by a convincing victory over Knights, Sentinels Dapr notes that no team should be slept on at this level.

Sentinels, once the kings of NA and the Valorant world, have had some proving themselves to do this season. After runs that decidedly ended less than ideal at Champions and Masters Berlin, the team that were back-to-back world champions have been on the back foot. Many in North America have looked to others as rising stars, like Cloud9 or OpTic, but their record is speaking for itself so far at Challengers.

Sentinels going back to basics

Despite a shaky map one, SEN managed to pull off a convincing victory over the Pittsburgh Knights over the weekend. Many would say that this result is expected, but SEN's Michael "dapr" Gulino was quick to note in the post-match interview that no team at this level should be underestimated.

"We did some prep work, you can't really sleep on anyone [at VCT Challengers]. Everyone here is top 8, top 12 NA, so you can't ignore anyone. We definitely did homework. We knew what to expect but when you're in the server it's its own beast."

This is somewhat of an interesting statement, especially as Sentinels is a team that is noted to not practice very much. At least, that's the impression Dapr's teammate Zombs consistently gives off on social media, as he very famously notes after most victories that they don't practice.

Slow starts still an issue for Sentinels

The first map didn't go according to plan for Sentinels. They allowed Knights to pull back from a 12-8 lead to take the match to overtime, 15-13. This was a curveball, and made many think Knights had upset potential for the match overall.

"t. I think we have a history of starting off really slow. We won some insane rounds towards the end, I had a huge round on defense and a huge clutch, I thought that would carry us momentum-wise to win, but we couldn't pull it out."

Historically, slow starts are a very common theme for Sentinels. Some teams have been able to take advantage of this lack of momentum and surprise SEN, but if they're allowed to pull back into games and maps, they have a tendency to clutch out victories. It's the teams that build leads early and deny SEN that ability to build momentum that present problems, as Knights did on map one.

But what was causing the issues for SEN? This was a team that, after all, had seen a lot of strategies over the course of their tenure. It seems that the key to beating SEN, at least on the short term, is catching them off guard with unorthodox strategies and denying them information. It seemed to work for Knights on Map One, anyway.

"I think the Sage gave us a lot of problems," Dapr explained. "They were fighting for B-Main a lot, which we're kind of used to, but they're playing it in an unorthodox way. We had to figure out how to adjust to that. Astra was being a nuisance in A main, he was alone but made it seem like there were a lot of people there. We were kind of infostarved everywhere, so we had to find loopholes to exploit."

Two in the Chamber

After that though, it was all Sentinels all the time. They managed a warm up in the first map and thoroughly trounced Knights on maps two and three with a 13-5, 13-8 scoreline to follow. All capped off with a Chamber pick over Cypher, despite the need for information on the map, for the third map.

"If you're left on islands a lot, like I was on C, I personally enjoy having a get out of jail card with Chamber. You can do more aggressive stuff and not just get stuck," Dapr said, grinning. "With Cypher, I threw my utility, now what? But with Chamber you can make yourself way harder to play against, you can give yourself more openings, people can play off you better. I personally enjoy it more."

Of course, on future agent picks, Dapr was quick to disappoint fans. It doesn't seem likely that SEN will be pulling out Neon, the newest agent to join Valorant. This, despite SEN social media tweeting out before the match Friday that they would pick the agent if a tweet got 15,000 likes.

"I can say that we have not tried Neon," Dapr said. "I think she's a fun agent, but at the end of the day, Jett is too OP, Raze is really good too. Tenz is a fan of Neon, he wanted to play it, but not for us, not right now."

Sentinels now sit atop their group heading into week three. But as Dapr notes, all of that can change in the blink of an eye. If their caught snoozing yet again, their fortunes could turn just as they did at Masters and Champions despite promising starts.

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