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NPPL Denver 2005
 July 22-24 2005

Sacramento XSV – First Place Pro
Bob Long’s Assassins – First Place Semi-Pro
Bonebrake USA Silver – Fires Place DI
Less Than Zero – First Place – DII
Atomix Nation – First Place - DIII


 


The NPPL 2005 Super 7 World Series made its third stop of the season in a venue that was new in 2004 but very well received – Mile High Stadium in Denver, Colorado.  By sharing a location with the Vans Warped Tour, Denver was well situated to not just host a tournament, but host spectators to the tournament as well.  Working to bring in additional crowds to cheer the players on the NPPL went so far as to send out street teams distributing flyers in local hotspots to promote the tournament.  As in 2004, the tournament fields were situated on the stadium’s parking lot with NPPL Action Turf playing surface laid over the asphalt, yielding a sound playing surface for quick sprints. 

While the fields were ready and open for walking by the teams on Thursday, the real action didn’t kick in until Friday morning, when the teams took to the fields.

As games got off to a start things heated up in more ways than one.  Not only was the action hot, so was the weather.  Temperatures in the upper 90s with plenty of sun meant that keeping hydrated was critical.  Despite the heat, which was forecast to increase on Saturday and be followed by scattered thunderstorms, the PRO referees and field staff kept pace, to keep games to the tightly timed schedule.  With the closed pro division not starting until the weekend, the spotlight games for Friday were in the semi-pro bracket.  As one might expect, the bigger name, more experience teams brought their game, but they weren’t the only ones.  A-Team, All Americans, Bob Long’s Assassins, California Ironmen, Doc’s Raiders, Distortion, East Side Paintball, Famous, IceMen, Impact, Influence, Justice, Miami Hate Crew, Shock and Shockwave Canada all came through the first day undefeated.  Saturday would be a stronger sorting measure for this group as more of the higher ranked teams faced each other. 

As has become standard for the league, Scrutineer Dave Zinkham was checking player equipment to make sure it fell within the boundaries of the NPPL rules.  On Friday two teams were penalized for illegal ‘guns. 

The NPPL penalty for an illegal gun was modified at the beginning of the 2005 season to result in a –100 point score for the game in which the paintgun was discovered, the team having to play one player short for the duration of the tournament, and the player being suspended for the remainder of the tournament as well as the next NPPL tournament in which the team competes.  This makes sure teams that play only 2 or 3 of the tournaments are affected the same as those which play the full series.  It also focuses more on penalizing the player than the whole team, when compared to an earlier version of the rule which removed the entire team from the tournament.  In addition, since the team remains in the tournament, albeit playing at a disadvantage, the balance of the rest of the tournament is affected less, since other teams won’t be collecting forfeit points.

According to Zinkham an Angel used by Derange was set with a TR mode of 7 or 8.  Zinkham’s testing and WDP’s statements confirmed that setting the value to anything above 1 would add shots, making the gun no longer NPPL legal.  Zinkham spotted an Intimidator used by LA Brotherhood, and upon investigating found it was set to a ramping mode, with an R displayed on its LCD.  In both cases the paintguns were able to be used legally for use in the NPPL, but had been set up into modes which were not.  If anything the penalties issued underscored the point that players must learn the ins and outs of their gear, as ultimately they, and their team, are the ones responsible for it on the field.

Saturday’s games brought the pro division into the mix.  Because the pro division is now separate from the rest of the tournament, its preliminary games are a lot less predictable.  In the league’s original format, a pro team would face one or two other pros during the prelims, as well as a mix of amateur (D1) and novice (DII) teams.  This usually led to very close scores between the pros.  With a pro team’s prelim score based on 8 games against other pro teams, it’s a whole new ball game, where a definite pecking order is established in the preliminary rounds.  Since the teams are split into two divisions, there is still drama to be had on Sunday as the quarterfinals mix the top four teams from each of the divisions.

Sacramento XSV was the top ranked team at the end of the prelims.  As the second ranked team in the Super 7, they have been building momentum as the season progressed.  Portland Naughty Dogs, the league’s fourth ranked team finished best in their division, grabbing the second highest ranking at the end of the round.  For these two teams, a top rank was important as it meant they would not face each other, but face weaker teams during the quarters.  Los Angeles Infamous, DC Arsenal, San Diego Dynasty, New England Hurricanes, Oakland Empire and San Francisco Avalanche were the other quarterfinalists.  Surprising was Dynasty’s rank of fifth.  As the team that has literally dominated the NPPL Super 7 since it began in 2003, and is presently the top ranked team in the series, having hung only 5 out of 8 flags in the prelims was unusual.  For Sunday however, things would begin afresh.  In the quarterfinals, scores from the prelims do not matter.  What is ultimately important to be able to finish in first place is that a team made the cut at the end of Saturday.

All other divisions sent 16 teams on to quarterfinals, making the cut relatively more gentle for semi-pro with more teams going on than being left behind.  Shock, All Americans and East Side Paintball led the group, all having finished without losses.  Doc’s Raiders and Capt’n Carl’s Factory finished on the bubble.  Doc’s made the cut over Carl’s by one point at 519 to 518.

Atomix Factory played to form, finishing at the top of the DI preliminary rounds, followed by HK, Farside, and Bonebrake USA Silver.  This placement was key for Farside, presently tied in the series rankings with Wicked, which didn’t make the cut, finishing the round in 27th place.

Division II’s leaders were X-Factor, Paintball Mart Factory and Bring It On Paintball.com.  Top series ranked LTZ finished in the fifth slot.  Faction rounded out the 16 advancing teams, beating out Chop Shop 518 to 517.

Out of the 16 teams advancing from DIII, Trouble, So-Cal Crazy Vatos and Mistfits finished in the first three slots.  Heaven & Hell, holding the second ranked position in series points finished 12th in the prelims.

Sunday was the day where it was all decided, the quarterfinals picked the teams that would make the top four finishers, and then the semifinals and finals determined their order of finish.

The pro quarterfinals worked in a single division of 8 teams, with seven games, meaning each team got to play every other team in the round.  The result was more pro action for the spectators on Sunday, as well as more top-level teams in front of the cameras.  No team made it through the round unscathed, including Dynasty, who despite a single loss finished in the first ranked position, much better than their showing in the prelims.  Oakland Empire ranked second, Sacramento XSV third and San Francisco Avalanche fourth.  DC Arsenal, Portland Naughty Dogs, NE Hurricanes and LA Infamous were knocked out by this round.

The semi-pro teams, like divisions I through III had a tougher go of things in the quarters.  They were broken into divisions of four.  Three games would be played to pick the top team from each division for the semis, sending home three quarters of the teams.  The top semi-pro finishers were Dynasty Dynamics, Bob Long’s Assassins, Famous and California Ironmen.  In D1, it was Naughty Dogs DI, Bonebrake Silver, Atomix Sports, and Naughty X Nature.

LTZ played to form, topping the DII quarterfinals, followed by Colorado Raiders, NTK and United.  In D III it was Atomix Nation, S-Cal Crazy Vatos, Heaven & Hell and Trouble.

The semifinal and finals rounds sorted teams into first second, third and fourth place.  The semifinals pitted the first ranked quarterfinalists against the fourth ranked, and the second and third against each other.  The two pairs would play for the best two out of three games.  The winners of the semifinals games would then play best two out of three, for first and second place, while the losers of the semifinals would play each other in the finals to decide third and fourth place. 

In the pro division, Dynasty and XSV won the semifinals, both by two wins in a row.  This pitted them against each other – the top two teams in the league battling for first place.  XSV won two games back to back – the first as a 100 to 0 shut-out.  This marked XSV’s first top finish in the Super 7, and put them in a very exclusive club.  Dynasty, Naughty Dogs, The Men and Infamous are the only teams to have finished first place pro in the NPPL Super 7, though Dynasty and Infamous are the only teams to have done it more than once.  Of course Dynasty hasn’t just done it twice like Infamous, they’ve done it ten times.   This win at Denver wasn’t enough for XSV get ahead of Dynasty in 2005 series points, but it did get them closer, moving them from 6 points apart to 3 points apart.  Fighting for third and fourth, Avalanche beat Empire the first game, but lost the second, and picked up the third for third place.

In the semi-pro division, Dynasty Dynamics dropped their first game to Infamous, but won the second two for a third place finish.  Bob Long’s Assassins played back to back wins against California Ironmen for a first place finish, with the Ironmen in second.  This marked the second second place finish of the season for California Ironmen, which when combined with their fist place win at Huntington Beach, further cemented their lead as the top ranked semi-pro team.

Naughty X Nature won two in a row over Atomix Sports for third place in DI.  Bonebrake USA Silver did the same to Naughty Dogs DI to gain the first place trophy. 

In Division II, NTK earned double wins over United for a third place finish.  The battle for fist place between Less Than Zero and Colorado Raiders however, was a nail-biter.  The first game between the two teams was tied.  While games without a flag hang aren’t too rare, an actual tie is, because it means in addition to no flag hang, there also was not a pull and each team eliminated an equal number of their competitors.  With the first game ending in a 19 to 19 tie, the next to were split evenly, one win to the Raiders and one to LTZ.  The tie was decided with a one on one, and the victory was handed to Less Than Zero, making them the only team in the 2005 NPPL season – regardless of division - to have a perfect record with first place trophies from Huntington Beach, Tampa and Denver.  

Trouble dropped their first finals game to SoCal Crazy Vatos, but won the following two, finishing in third place.  Atomix Nation did the same with Heaven & Hell finishing in first, with Heaven & Hell in second.  While this was the first time on the podium for Atomix in 2005, it was Heaven & Hell’s second time finishing in second, giving them solid points for the series, where consistency can count for more than a lone first place win.

With Denver’s games complete, the event was far from over – the player’s party and after parties being as much a part of the NPPL as the paintball.  From Denver the next stop for the Super 7 World Series is San Diego, to be followed by Miami.  As an extra curve ball, to the series’ path, the recent sanctioning of the International Amateur Open, the longest running major annual tournament in the United States, means that DII and DIII teams will get an extra shot at additional series points.
 


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