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Man Winning Teams
Man Winning Teams
Los Angeles marks the start of the NPPL season. In its second year at the SC Arenas in Corona, CA, the Los Angeles Open remains a popular event.
Heavy rains preceding the tournament left the parking and staging areas in a state of thick mud. Games started on Tuesday with the 5 player competition. The 5 man was run without a pro division, this year, as there was little pro interest for that competition.
Teams putting in both a 5 man and 10 man squad would have an advantage in the 10 man. In order to decrease the home court advantage held Southern California teams, and east coast teams with enough budget to practice at SC, Shane Pestana and Brahim Estephan of the Ironmen made field modifications just prior to the event. The Sup'Air fields featured new bunkers, in a new layout, and the Hyperball fields have had Brimstone Ultimate Airball bunkers added to them.
While the NPPL 2001 rules require barrel bags, rather than barrel plugs, it was not yet being enforced, as the logistics of distributing enough barrel bags to teams in time, were deemed impractical. In a similar note about the rules, which were completed the weekend before the start of the tournament: while it is planned with great certainty that the league will restrict paintguns to be capable of semi-auto mode only, such a rule will not be put in place and enforced until it becomes practical. Members of both the NPPL League Committee and the promoters are in the process of discussing the situation with paintgun manufacturers to design an adequate time frame for semi-only boards to be distributed for owners of paintguns which presently are capable of full auto, burst and turbo modes.
The thunderstorms expected on Tuesday had not materialized by mid day, and brief stretches of full sunshine helped to dry out some of the mud and standing water. Meanwhile SC Village staff was busy setting up food concessions, and a covered tent with a wood and Astroturf floor. The sunshine was unfortunately offset by intermittent light rain later in the day.
Referees for the tournament included Bob Long's Ironmen with the addition of Ron Kilbourne of the Bushwackers for the 5 man, and the SC Ironmen, The Family, and Fury for the 10 man.
Bob's Ironmen kept the games going quickly and smoothly, despite the weather. For the 30 teams competing in the 5 man, preliminary games ended more than an hour and a half ahead of schedule.
The NPPL rules stipulate 8 teams advancing to the semifinals, which meant that the prelims only weeded out a handfull of teams. The semifinals were where the teams needed to put on the heat.
Wednesday, the heat came, and the semifinalists were whittled away into the finalists, 4 in each classification. Light rain kept up the mud as a problem, more so in the vendor and staging areas than on the fields, due to heavier foot and vehicle traffic. Hay spread over the mud in the afternoon was a great help in keeping the staging and scoring areas manageable.
As the finals got underway, teams were already practicing for the 10 man competition on the unused fields. Some of the practice teams were thrown together by players from various teams, leading to games such as Jaxalanche vs Avashock.
Thursday was an open day in the event schedule. 10 man teams walked the fields, and the vendors arrived in full force, supplying the teams with equipment and accessories.
On Friday morning the 10 player prelims began. The games ran, slightly behind schedule througout the day, with some of the later games being moved to Saturday morning. The weather remained rain free, with light winds. An overcast sky let through ultraviolet light, leaving many with surprise sunburns.
SC Arenas made its debut as a tournament complex with the Los Angeles Open in 2000, literally as a model for what a tournament paintball field could be. Each of the tournament fields are surrounded by earthen berms which are topped by paved walkways which are surrounded by netting to protect spectators. The fields were designed prior to any standards for paintball netting. In 2001 the National Paintball Association issued netting standards for the fields it insures, and the NPPL adopted those same standards for the league. Unfortunately, two of the standards conflicted with the SC Arenas layout. The new standards require a 5 foot space between spectators and netting, which is not practical in the Arena's narrow walkways. Additionaly some sections of the netting (different netting materials are used throughout the arenas) did not pass a multiple shot test. In keeping with the new standards, the majority of the walkways were labled as "goggle on" areas, with the netting still shielding spectators from the annoyance of stray shots. After testing, one section of walkway was considered acceptable for goggle off use, and hosted many of the spectators who had not brought their own goggles.
New in the 2001 rules is the procedure of chronographing all players on to the field, and then spot checking players during the game with hand held radar chronographs and eliminating hot shooters. While in theory this practice produces more realistic scoring (a game would not be lost "after the fact" by chrono penalty points) some players and referees commented that the additional time getting on the field led to delays. In the end, the rule was reversed, chronoing on and off the field, as always. A new practice of a separate deadbox for players and their paintguns was also put into effect. When a player is eliminated, they wait in the dead box, first setting their paintgun down in a separate holding pen. This is to minimize player/equipment contact decreasing the chance of velocity adjustment, software reset, or other forms of cheating.
Saturday was blessed with beautiful weather. Partly cloudy skies, light winds, and a moderate temperature made for great paintball, with the completion of the 10 man preliminary rounds.
Being the start of a new season, many changes were evident in the teams. Jax Warriors are now pro,"so I don't keep loosing my players to pro teams," says their captain, Paul "PGP" Bollenbach. The previous season Kenny Clamper had gone to Aftershock, while Chris Huffnagle, and Kevin Ackman played for the All Americans. With the switch in status, Ackman and Huffnagle were able to return the the Warriors for 2001. Chris Wright, who played part of the 2000 season with Aftershock is another new addition to the Jax Warriors. Another departure from the All Americans was Dan "Heavy D" Holmes, who rejoined his former teammates on Aftershock. Jim Murray has returned to Ground Zero after playing with the All As in 2000. Dan "Snack" Kerszencwejg, who had been taking time off of playing for the All Americans, in order to study to become a chef, had an opening in his school schedule which allowed him to play in Los Angeles.
Dynasty made their NPPL professional debut. The team, made largely of players from the Iron Kids had a strong showing in the prelims. In their first 5 games, they only lost 6 players total. Unfortunately hot gun penalties knocked their scores down.
Mark McManus moved from Lockout to Aftershock. Eric Roberts of the Ironmen and Todd Hugo from the Bushwackers are now rostered in with Avalanche. Fusion had had major changes, half of its lineup hailing from Canada. Ben Rushing, and Travis Seetin from Addicted have gone pro, joining Lockout. Yosh Rau of the IronKids didn't join the pack for Dynasty. He is instead playing for the SC Ironmen. Todd Peverill and Marty Garrison of the Naughty Dogs have also gone pro, playing for Image.
The semifinals and finals were held on Sunday under overcast skies with chilly temperatures. Aftershock captain, Todd Adamson left the tournament unexpectedly due to the death of his grandfather, and Shock played Sunday wearing black armbands, with new energy to win for Todd.
Dynasty kept their energy, and plowed through the semifinals finishing as the top seated pro team. Their game against Aftershock was like two trains colliding, with disputed calls, and emotions running high.
Naughty Dogs, fresh from their win at Mardi Gras finished second in the Amateur A prelims, but took a loss to Addicted in their first finals game. Dynasty faced Aftershock again, this time in the finals. The game swayed first to Shock, and then leveled out, two players against two, and went to Dynasty.
Ground Zero won all three of their finals games to bring home first place pro, second went to Lockout, third to Dynasty, and fourth to Aftershock.
Team Strange from Florida, having moved up to Amateur A from B this year proved they were in the right classification by finishing first. Addicted finished in a close second. A stalemate between Bushwackers and Naughty Dogs cost both teams valuable points. The Bushwackers finished in third and the Naughty Dogs in fourth.
Warped Kids, still a relatively new team grabbed the Ameteur B first place, followed by Exile, Check It, and Sharp Shooters.
The awards ceremony took place on SC Arena's new portable awards stage, under light towers (a far cry for the awards ceremonies with people standing on a table and cars moved into place to illuminate the winners with thier headlights, as in years past). John Gregory, founder of JT, and World Cup promoter Jerry Braun were both recognized with lifetime achievement awards. One of the newest fields to be installed in the arena complex, is now known as the Gregory/Braun Arena. Jerry Braun announced that the NPPL series sponsors have so far committed over $700,000 in prizes for the 2001 season, a number that is expected to grow as the year goes on. Just over $2,000 in DYE products was tossed out to the crowd, and the trophies were awarded.
SC Arenas, it was said, are undergoing major expansion. Purchase of adjoining land has allowed room for additional growth. The area presently used for staging will become more fields, the netting and walkway systems will be improved, new land to the east will be used for parking and staging.
From Los Angeles, the league moves forward to Gettysburg, the new location for the Smart Parts NPPL tournament.
The condolences of the players, promoters,
and all involved go out to Aftershock's Todd and Tami Adamson on the loss
of Todd's grandfather, and to Avalanche's Shaun Ellis on the loss of his