Coach Kaplan on Sentinels’ VALORANT comms: ‘It went from a want to a need for players to step up and have a voice’

VALORANT's most-watched team is making the best of what they've got.

Sentinels need a miracle to make the playoffs in VCT Americas. On top of winning their final two VALORANT matches of the season, the standings have to shake out in a way that ends up with them advancing on tiebreakers.

On top of that, the team was dealt another massive roster shift when in-game leader Rory “dephh” Jackson made the decision to step down from the roster last week, as confirmed by coach Adam Kaplan. Needing someone to call the shots, kaplan designated Jimmy “Marved” Nguyen as the in-game leader but placed the responsibility on all the players to “chime in with ideas and plays to support him. Coach Kaplan told Dot Esports after Sentinels’ win against KRU on May 14 that adopting this IGL-by-committee style was both an opportunity and a necessity.

“It was an opportunity to call on everybody to chime in and say what plays they wanted to make, and give [Marved] stuff to work with,” Kaplan told Dot Esports. “It’s gotten us to a place where we can make these confidence plays, and we can come up with microplays in the middle of a game. We have to avoid looking too stiff because we don’t have an incredibly seasoned IGL to fall back on. It went from a want to a need for players to step up and have a voice. There were a lot of mistakes but I saw players suggest things and countercall each other and throw multiple ideas around in a freeze time and it was a welcome difference.”

The path to the playoffs is only a small portion of the uphill battle that has been the Sentinels 2023 season. The team has had to navigate roster and coaching changes, shifting roles, and sky-high expectations from one of VALORANT’s most vocal fan bases. Kaplan told Dot Esports it’s been hard to build chemistry and cohesion throughout the year, and with all the roster and role changes, they haven’t been able to build a steady map pool.

A steady map pool and a roster built on cooperation and cohesion is something Kaplan wants to see “no matter what” heading into 2024, but he says the team is squarely focused on their must-win match against FURIA on May 18. The team looked more than solid in Marved’s IGL debut and TenZ’s return, with Kaplan pointing out that “[TenZ] was clearly eager to get back to playing,” while praising Marved for his calling.

“He has really stepped up instantly in terms of being a leading voice,” Kaplan said about Marved. “He calls with confidence, with energy, with volume and the right tone and that really has impressed me so far.”

The confidence and energy will be needed when Sentinels take on FURIA on Saturday, May 18, at 2pm CT, and then has to be sustained whether Sentinels are going to the playoffs or straight to the Last Chance Qualifier.

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