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The stage had been set for VCT 2023: LOCK//IN’s first semifinal matchup between Group Alpha’s LOUD and DRX in São Paulo. As both teams walked onto the stage, there was a lot at stake for both teams.

The last time both teams matched against one another was at VCT Champions 2022 in the Upper Bracket Semifinals, where LOUD 2-0’d DRX. Regardless, both teams proved their capabilities as DRX finished the tournament in 3rd place while LOUD was crowned victorious at VCT Champions 2022. So going into this series, DRX planned on the semifinals being an opportunity to put the Pacific region at the forefront.

The LOUD House: São Paulo erupts as aspas goes super saiyan

VCT Champions 2022 LOUD aspas

aspas has been the MVP of the entire VCT 2023: LOCK//IN tournament

LOUD’s Erick “aspas” Santos posted a 1.88 rating, 366 Average Combat Score, and 24 kills on the team’s pack of Pearl. Aspas then continued his reign of terror by posting a team-leading 1.53 Rating with a 354 ACS on Icebox.

Yet, one of LOUD’s primary winning moments throughout Pearl and Icebox was stopping DRX’s star duelist Byung Chul “BuZz” Yu. The Brazilians were able to predict where BuZz would be on the first two maps as the Korean duelist was subject to many early-round deaths as a result of LOUD’s strong preparation. LOUD soared to back-to-back 9-3 first halves on Pearl and Icebox because of their ability to keep tabs on BuZz. While BuZz was able to help DRX salvage a five-round win-streak on the attack side of Icebox, it was not enough to mount a comeback.

DRX silence the crowd with strong Split and Fracture

Down 0-2, DRX answered back resoundingly on Split as they silenced the Sao Paulo crowd with a dominant 9-3 first half over LOUD. Their first-half play on Split was a complete shift from the first two maps by DRX as the team collectively won out on many of the opening trades. While LOUD’s aspas continued to be a nuisance on Split, evident by his server-leading 1.71 Rating on defense, it was not enough for LOUD to break past the 9-3 deficit from the first half. After a few answers from LOUD, DRX were able to grab their first map win of the best-of-five to bring the series to Fracture.

Before this point, every first half saw one of DRX or LOUD dominate the first half, but Fracture proved to be the actual meeting point between the two. Both teams battled evenly throughout the first half of Fracture as they went into the second half at an even 6-6 record. That quickly changed as DRX's Controller player Kim "MaKo" Myeong-Kwan's smokes were otherworldly. His masterful utility usage helped DRX soar to map point after six consecutive round wins as both teams looked towards Ascent.

The cauanzin effect shuts down DRX's reverse-sweep dreams

The final map of the first semifinals between LOUD and DRX came down to the superb play from LOUD's newcomer Cauan "cauanzin" Pereira. After the first three maps, DRX had been able to direct their attention toward shutting down aspas, but the Pacifics team was unable to make quick adaptations to the stellar crosshair placements from cauanzin. Throughout the final map, DRX kept things close, but cauanzin's map-leading 1.55 Rating was the difference maker in many of these close end-of-round scenarios.

How to watch VCT 2023: LOCK//IN Finals Weekend

LOUD will now await the winner of Fnatic and Natus Vincere on March 3, 2023 to see who their opponent will be in the Grand Final on March 4, 2023. There, LOUD will look to become the first two-time international VALORANT LAN champions and acquire an extra slot at VCT Masters: Tokyo for the Americas region.

VALORANT fans can tune in through VCT's Twitch and YouTube channels. For how all the VCT 2023: LOCK//IN São Paulo Omega matches played out, be sure to check out our article on who won each match.