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The matchup between Leviatán and NRG Esports was billed as one of the most competitive bouts in the opening weekend of VALORANT Champions Tour Americas 2023, and for good reason – both squads, along with 2022 VCT champion LOUD, are regarded by many as the top three teams in the region.

The match began as competitive as expected with Leviatán winning by a narrow margin of 13-11 on Pearl, but on Lotus, NRG was dispatched of in quick fashion by a score of 13-4 for a 2-0 LEV win. Unlike the VCT 2023: LOCK//IN, LEV did not have the crowd on their side, but it wasn’t a bother to in-game leader Francisco "kiNgg" Araven and his teammates.

“I don't know why, but the audio has felt especially good this tournament. I couldn't hear anything except the game,” kiNgg told Esports Illustrated after the win. “When we lost a round, I never heard the 'AHHHHHH' from the fans, so it was really chill for me. Also, the temperature was spot on. When we were in Brazil, we were suffocating because it was really hot. Here, it's all really good.”

It’s more than just physical comfort that helped Leviatán start the season in what kiNgg calls a ‘best-case scenario’, however. A bitter exit from the LOCK//IN outside of the top 4 catalyzed a shift in competitive mentality for the team. “We had really high expectations coming into the LOCK//IN,” recalled kiNgg. “We were winning every scrim, and we were thinking, 'We are champions of this tournament. There is no way we lose.’ When we had that mindset, the pressure came … We are our own worst enemies.”

This led to LEV, by kiNgg’s evaluation, underperforming on stage due to panic catalyzed by the pressure they were putting on themselves based on scrim results. But the disappointing finish in the LOCK//IN catalyzed a change in competitive mindset for the team. different way. “That loss hit us hard. We were really angry and we didn't know why it happened,” said the LEV IGL. “We've been working a lot since that loss. We've learned a lot as a team as well.”

The round-robin format of VCT Americas 2023 is also helping LEV retain their new perspective. “This isn't like the usual tournaments that are single elimination or double elimination … We entered with a mentality like, 'Ok, it doesn't matter how this match goes. If we lose now, we have eight more matches to do our thing’,” explained kiNgg. “NRG is one of the strongest teams in the league, so I was expecting a more competitive second map and possibly even a third map. To me, they're still a top 3 team, so I'm really happy with what we showed today.”

Leviatán’s more relaxed approach regarding the stakes of a match in VCT Americas 2023 has served them well through their first week, but they’ll have that mindset put to the test once again versus FURIA Esports on Saturday, April 8 at 3:00pm PT.