The head coach of KT Rolster recounted the trials and tribulations his team endured leading up to the League Champions Korea, and he gave insight into the sacrifices of Mata.
With his team set to face perennial power KS Telecom T1 in Saturday’s final, KT coach Lee Ji-Hoon appeared on “Weekly LCK” this week and diagrammed his team’s up and down spring split.
Lee said his team had “a difficult journey,” referencing the fact that KT underperformed compared to the lofty expectations entering season. The ensuing harsh words that came from the community, like calling the team a “Super-Market team,” did have an impact on the players mentality, but Lee credited the success in the playoffs to the players’ determination and innate belief they’d reach the finals.
On the topic of their playoff opponents, Lee called MVP “a team we had to defeat,” and said he was confident KT would be able to get exact revenge on Samsung Galaxy for last year’s regional finals.
“Samsung looked very impressive, especially after they beat SK Telecom T1,” he said. “On that note, however, I didn’t expect them maintain that form. It felt like that was the highest point of their abilities, and (the LCK) definitely has peaks and valleys in performance. We were on the bottom. They were on the top.”
This spring was a transformative time for KT, not only because of its massive rebuild, but also because the players themselves had to change their own play styles. Kim “Deft” Hyuk-kyu had to play more defensively and Heo “Pawn” Won-seok had to work through criticism of his individual performance. But Lee said Cho “Mata” Se-hyeong had the biggest adjustment.
“Everyone did well, but Mata really put himself aside to change his play style, even what made him so good,” he said. “He had a rough time, to the point that he joked during our losing streak that he’ll hand in his salary. That was how determined he was.”
Although consistently an impressive team, KT has yet to win a spring split, with many fans wondering if this would be the perfect time to reach that milestone. Lee said that his team practiced many times against SKT, and though he admitted that KT showed “a lot of our cards” in the process, the practice helped more than it might have hurt.
Looking back at KT’s run for the summer split and their missed chance at worlds by the hands of the ROX Tigers, Lee pondered if everything from last split led to this moment.
“I would say last year’s Baron steal in the summer split stole so many things from us,” he said. “A chance at worlds, a tournament win — of course it’s not like we could have won 100 percent, but we would have had a better chance. We then lost at the regionals and now we had to do a strong rebuilding. I think a lot of this was snowballed from that moment in time.”