The weather made its unpredictable nature felt on Sunday. Truth be told it was predicted; Saturday night into Sunday morning and beyond. Rain and plenty of it. So said the meteorologists. But the weather only threatened until around noon. Then the rain came--and plenty of it. To prove a point after the midday deluge had settled into a steady rain the clouds parted revealing gaps of blue sky and even occasional sunshine. Some of the day's paintball was played in the rain but less than we had reason to expect. Obviously what big time tourney paintball needs is a stadium with a retractable roof and real grass. Yeah, yeah, I know--and everybody wants a million bucks too. At one time or another the NPPL has promised pretty much everything else, what's a retractable roof among friends? All I'm saying.
There are no big changes over years past. Fresh new bunker sets held (mostly) in place with water fills sit on a pair of pristine turf carpets. The grandstand field, the one closest to the hill, slopes toward that end of the field and we're convinced it's easier to shoot peeps OTB shooting downhill. (And it is.) Despite what has been reported as a modest increase in competing teams over last year's event it seems more or less the same though if I were unaware of the numbers I might guess fewer total teams. Perhaps it's because this time the Pro teams received parking passes to park in the lot with the vendors and VIPs. It was a nice perk--and appreciated. And, as a practical matter, kept us from being a nuisance and parking wherever we wanted to anyway. (I'm not advocating similar behavior. I'm just saying ...)
Apropos nothing at all Loudon County VA [where the paintball field is located] has not one but at least 4 co-related signs of the coming apocalypse. They are the roundabouts put up in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Now Loudon County is a wealthy county and apparently considered it worthwhile to construct 4 roundabouts, nicely detailed with cobblestone bricks, in the middle of nowhere and unlike many of the rest of us they can probably afford it. But how pretentious and pointlessly so do you have to be to construct 4 of the silly things all within stone throwing distance of each other in an area where heavy traffic means you saw three cars in the last two minutes? Even the Europeans have the good sense to put their roundabouts in congested urban settings so that if you can't get anywhere during heavy traffic you can at least go around in circles.
As a team we were scheduled to arrive on Thursday in time to practice the event layout. Everyone except the Orlando contingent managed. That left us with 6 players for practice including this event's contributor from the Ironmen, Raney Stanczak. For various reasons we've had trouble getting a complete Damage roster to some of the NPPL events. Just like BShort before him Raney did an excellent job. We decide to get started with 6 figuring the object was to learn the field but received another helping hand from Ryan Greenspan who volunteered to fill in until our other players arrived. With Bart Yackimec organizing the match-ups and keeping the teams moving everyone had the benefit of a well-organized practice and our Orlando kids showed up in time to get a few reps in at the end of the day.
Eight teams go through to Sunday in the Pro division so all the prelims are going to do is eliminate 5 teams. But which 5 and what sort of prelim record is going to get somebody through to Sunday? If all you did was watch games and ignore the scores--which was easy to do as scoring was only infrequently announced--you might have been hard put to pick out the surviving teams. By the end of Saturday perennial power teams like Dynasty and Arsenal weren't going through along with resurgent Xplicit and a strong but unlucky Uprising team. The Sunday format takes the top 4 teams from each bracket and matches 1A against 4B and 2B against 3A and so on in a first round of single elimination. We played Avalanche and won 5-0. Our next opponent would be the winner of X-Factor and Infamous (with X-Factor as the three seed from our bracket.) In the other opening round matches it was XSV versus Vendetta and Legend going against Impact. X-Factor beat Infamous, Vendetta nipped XSV and Legend took a decisive win from Impact. The semis shaped up as Damage versus X-Factor and Legend squaring off with Vendetta. Legend won to form half the finals--and we lost to X-Factor in overtime 2-3. Another semi-final loss. That's four in a row. All by 1 point margins. Granted the semis is a good place to be but it's a lousy place to lose and four in a row is one tenacious monkey on our back. But not again. I may have blown our opportunity to get over the semi-final hump in DC but it won't happen again. Thing is in the first point against X-Factor I ignored my gut. (Not an easy thing to do.) I talked myself out of making a specific call. I can't know if it would have changed anything but with the opportunity to analyze the unmade call in retrospect it was the right call. I just didn't know why it was right at the time so I talked myself out of it. (That won't happen again either. And, yes, I will explain the whole situation in greater detail--after Vegas.)
Every tournament in every division is a story of opportunities lost and won. Except the winning is reserved for one team only. Everybody else comes up short and is left to wonder what went wrong, or rage at obvious mistakes, or find somebody else to blame or simply hang their heads in frustration. Until next time. This time it was X-Factor's turn and it was well earned. Every time the pressure was on they answered that call and held fast winning three overtime matches on their way to the title. Congrats to Alex and the boys from Texas (and their Mass. transplant, Billy B. Well done.)