Latest by Cole Paganelli April 27, 2021 321

Hangzhou Spark Replace Their OWL Coaching Staff

Chinese Overwatch League (OWL) team Hangzhou Spark have announced that they’re parting ways with their head coach Ji-sub “paJion” Hwang. Replacing the South Korean strategies will be Jaehong “Andante” Hwang as an interim coach.

Hangzhou Spark Shake Up Their Coaching Staff

After a poor start of the 2021 season, Hangzhou Spark have decided to make some drastic changes to their coaching staff. As announced by the Chinese esports organization, they have replaced their coach and assistant coach.

Besides parting ways with paJion, Spark also cut ties with his assistant Jae-dong “nOrU” Kim. Replacing the two are former Vancouver Titans coach Andante and Chung-in “Mentalist” Kim as his assistant.

Hangzhou Spark promoted Andante to the position of the main coach after the 23-year-old Korean spent the last eight months with the team as an assistant coach. He joined Hangzhou Spark in September 2020.

Before joining the Chinese esports organization, Andante served as an analyst of Vancouver Titans for 14 months. He led the Canadian OWL team through their most successful year in the league.

With Vancouver Titans, Andante won the OWL 2019 regular season and reached the finals of the playoffs. There Titans lost to San Francisco Shock 0-2.

Joining Andante as a new assistant coach is Mentalist. As a former player, Mentalist transitioned to coaching in February 2020 and has since coached five teams.

His most memorable stint as a coach came in 2020 when he led Atlanta Reign in the OWL. He was last seen coaching Bilibili Gaming in the Chinese Contenders.

With the Chinese squad, Mentalist won Contenders 2021 CN Season 1 – Regular Season 1 title. His success eventually earned him a contract with Spark, who signed him as their new assistant coach Monday, April 26.

Hangzhou Spark Hoping Change Will Help

Hangzhou Spark hasn’t had the most successful run in 2020. As a team that finished fourth in the 2019 OWL, Spark did not live up to the expectations in 2020.

They haven’t won a single tournament last year and finished the regular season in 10th with a 12-11 record. Spark looked slightly better ahead of the 2021 season – reaching the finals of Esports Shanghai Masters – but have since cooled down and started to struggle.

Entering the 2021 OWL season as one of the most exciting teams to follow, Hangzhou Spark have yet to win a single match. They have already lost to Philadelphia Phoenix (1-3) and New York Excelsior (1-3) in their opening series of the season.

With a 0-2 record and a disastrous 2-6 map differential, Hangzhou Spark are sixth in the Eastern League. This also marks the team’s first 0-2 start in the Overwatch League to date.

Spark are currently one of the only three Eastern teams without a win, besides Guangzhou Charge and Los Angeles Valiant. This puts them in a very tough position to make it through the May Melee qualifiers.

With Philadelphia Fusion and Chendsu Hunters already qualified, there are only two more spots left for the opening tournament of the season. And with only two more games left to be played, Spark need a flawless run to stand a chance for qualifying.

Hangzhou Spark’s Last Chance

In their first match under Andante and Mentalist, Hangzhou Spark will face off against Shanghai Dragons. The match is slated for Friday, April 30 at 21:00 CST in Week 3 of the season.

Odds for Hangzhou Spark vs. Shanghai Dragons match

Odds courtesy of BetOnline Sportsbook:

  • Hangzhou Spark +470
  • Shanghai Dragons -909
  • Hangzhou Spark +2.5 -182
  • Shanghai Dragons -2.5 +133
  • Over 4.50 Maps +283
  • Under 4.50 Maps -435

Hangzhou Spark last met with Shanghai Dragons in December 2020 in the grand finals of the Esports Shanghai Dragons. Spark lost that match 0-4 and are expected to struggle again on Friday.

The esports bookmakers have Spark priced as +470 underdogs, giving them little to no chance to cause an upset. That said, it’s fair to expect better showings from then under new coaching staff.

A win on Friday would all but guarantee Dragons a spot in the May Melee, whereas it would shut the doors shut for Spark. If Spark manage to upset Dragons, they’ll still need to defeat Guangzhou Charge in the next round to qualify successfully.

Their last match of May Melee qualifiers is slated to take place on Saturday, May 1. Unlike how it is for their match with Dragons, the Spark (-137) will enter their bout with Guangzhou Charge (+101) as favorites.

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