Better late than never, right? I tried to crank out a daily report but once the sun starts to set I get sleepy. Combine that with a late meal, way past my usual blue plate special, and I just wasn't up for it. A bit of celebrating Sunday evening--I highly recommend avoiding any flavor Four Loko cough syrup tasting malt energy drinks--and a travel day on Monday all conspired to give me an excuse for being lazy. Despite recent unseasonable heat in Virginia the weather was fantastic. The venue seemed much like it was last year though there appear to be some additional nearby rec fields. The tourney fields were excellent--okay, the center field was excellent. The other looked good but I didn't actually check it out because we weren't going to be playing on it. We arrived Friday in the early afternoon and went straight to the field to get in a few games of practice. Thanks to Pev's for making it available and to the teams also interested in some last minute practice.
(Is it just me or are the airlines cutting back on flights? Flying when we needed to fly we had to go to Dulles by way of Boston--which might be understandable if we weren't coming from Florida.)
There was a more modest grandstand this year, something similar to what PSP puts up for their second field but it was sufficient. The biggest turn out seemed to be for the All*Star event between Pro sessions on Saturday. With a couple of teams missing there were a few extra all*stars picked up for the match though I don't know if it was equal numbers across the board or not. Josh Davey was unable to attend so Frank (Connell) filled in as the East captain. The custom jerseys were quite nice and last I heard were supposed to be signed by the participants and auctioned off. Check the NPPL website for the details. The game itself wasn't particularly exciting as the West swept 3 straight games to take home the bragging rights. The format used was pretty much the old compromise suggestion between xball and 7-man from a few years ago. Playing multiple points within a time limit and using a 3 minute turnaround between points. The clock only runs while the game is in play. If you called it 7-man Race 2-3 that would be about right.
There was an equally modest vendor turnout with Valken, CP, the HK RV repping PBFashion, an RPS paint trailer and a few others I honestly didn't pay any attention to. Pev had a VIP area by the bleachers which did a good job of keeping the riff-raff out so I can't tell you who was allowed in and who wasn't. Usually it's vendors, sponsors, special guests and some players--let's call them FOCs, friends of Chuck.
I skipped, er, missed the party Saturday night--you know, sleepy--that was to include the Hall of Fame announcements so I don't have a clue how that turned out or who the first round of inductees was.
Our roster was a bit different from Chicago. We replaced Ramzi with Chad and Bart and the Impact kids were generous enough to loan us Warren Stojanowski, who was a standout all weekend--for a Canadian. Practice on Friday settled how we would begin play on Saturday and for the most part it worked fine as we won 5 of our 6 prelim games. (The brackets were a little different this event as we had D1 teams mixed in like Chicago but fewer Pro teams so one bracket got 6 games, the other got seven.) I was a little frustrated with our laning off the break as I thought we had some real opportunities to get some kills we mostly didn't get. Beyond that all Saturday does is give you the golden ticket to play on Sunday and if you can't step it up what you did on Saturday usually won't be good enough to move up on Sunday. Sunday morning we made a couple of changes (moved J-Rab and Alex) hoping to open up the offense and transition to offense more quickly. We also went through some breakout modifications because by Sunday if you're too predictable the other guys will make you pay. Even so we struggled. (5-2 may not seem like it but J-Rab & Jason pulled out a big game against Blast and we just weren't sharp early.) By Sunday the remaining teams had good ideas of where they wanted their initial lanes, who they wanted to kill, who they wanted to protect and how they wanted to play. In hindsight I may have dialled us back a little too much when we weren't getting eliminations off the break. Going into Sunday we had 3 runs I was prepared to use to shake things up. Runs, that prior to Sunday, I hadn't seen anybody use then what do you know, first Dynasty and then Infamous use 2 of them. That doesn't mean we won't call them, only that the element of complete surprise no longer exists.
There's a couple of schools of thought along these lines; either you show your opponents a whole bag of tricks and hope it keeps them guessing game to game or else you use your tricks judiciously to shake things up and gain an early advantage in a game when you really need it. As it turned out we never used any of them on Sunday.
The quarters shook out with us facing Dynasty and Dogs versus Infamous. Dynasty was relying heavily on Alex's play up the middle and a strong d-side push. Against us we expected Alex to want to play the 50 dorito with the U as a fallback. We decided how we would counter that, hope to contain Alex and take advantage of what we felt was our snake wire strength. First game was a war of attrition with both teams dropping bodies until the final minute when a burst of activity and some chaos left everybody gasping and the refs guessing until Dynasty was declared the winner. We regrouped, remained confident and I encouraged a more aggressive pace. We won game 2. Game 3 was much like game 2 and once Spence got Alex out of the middle we pressed our field position advantage and closed out game 3 for a trip to the final.
Facing Infamous in the final we changed some lanes and talked about what we expected them to do. I wanted us in the snake first and I wanted to keep LJ off the d-wire as long as possible and Spence had the green light to push the middle of the field. Fortunately we were playing our best paintball of the event in the semis and finals and in the second game against Infamous Spence slammed the door shut by taking Nicky out of the U and posting up in the 50 dorito to take out two more Infamous players on the d-wire.
There were big plays from a couple of players but there was consistently solid play across the board with everybody contributing to our success. And it's particularly gratifying to watch the guys prove they are among the best players in the world.