The Guard have picked up their first trophy of the year at the Ludwig x Tarik Invitational, taking down fellow Challengers rival TSM 2-1.

Along the way, the team defeated Sentinels, one of the partnered organizations in the Americas league, and South Korean squad T1, a Pacific league team.

Their emphatic victory over two of the most-hyped partnered teams showed how razor-thin the difference was between Challengers teams and franchised squads — at least in North America.

The Guard wins Ludwig x Tarik Invitational over TSM

Valorant The Guard
Credit: The Guard

The Guard, owned by Kroenke Sports and Entertainment, was not selected for the Americas partnered league, and will have to qualify for the league via the Ascension tournament instead.

Kroenke also owns Overwatch League and Call of Duty League teams Los Angeles Gladiators and Los Angeles Guerrillas, making them one of the biggest organizations to miss out on Valorant franchising.

Led by 20-year-old in-game leader Jacob “valyn” Batio, The Guard rose from the depths of Tier 2 obscurity to win VCT NA Stage 1 Challengers in March last year. The young squad had been viewed as the hope of North America, but ultimately failed to replicate the same performance on the international stage at Masters Reykjavik.

The rest of the year would be a quiet one for them. Following the departure of star player Ha “Sayaplayer” Jung-woo for T1 in the offseason, they added former NRG duelist and Chamber main Ian “tex” Botsch.

At the Ludwig x Tarik Invitational, the team looks to have reclaimed the same form that propelled them into the limelight in 2022.

An opening match against ex-teammate Sayaplayer’s T1 ended in a 2-1 victory in favor of The Guard. They then eked out a close 16-14 win over a rebuilt Sentinels squad, despite a red-hot performance from Tyson “TenZ” Ngo.

Against TSM, the series went the full three maps, but culminated in a 13-1 blowout on Haven for The Guard. Trent “trent” Cairns put on a performance to remember as Sova, displaying nearly flawless utility usage that TSM had no answer for.

The 18-year-old topped the server with a 51/43/24 KDA in the grand final, along with a 238 Average Combat Score.

Moving forward, trent and his team have already secured an invite to the first split of the NA Challengers league, alongside teams like G2 Esports, M80, FaZe Clan, TSM, and Shopify Rebellion. Split 1 will run from February 2 to March 15.

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