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NPPL Huntington Beach
 March 18-20, 2005

San Diego Dynasty - First Place Pro
The Men - First Place SemiPro
Wicked - First Place D I
LTZ - First Place D II
Sinfull - First Place D III
ASU Sun Devils Maroon - First Place College

The start of NPPL, Inc.’s Super Seven’s third year of operation meant only one thing – going back to the beach.  By far, the unique venue picked for the Super Seven’s first tournament in 2003 set the stage for years to come.  The beachside Southern California city, known for surfing and beach culture provided one of its greatest assets – the beach – as a venue for a history making paintball tournament.  That site has now become synonymous with the image and style of the NPPL’s tournaments, which are run by Pure Promotions.  While most tournament series focus on their finale event each year, in terms of size, spectacle and magnitude, all of the stops are pulled out for Huntington Beach, making it one of the leading tournaments each year on team’s calendars.

Being the start of the season, Huntington Beach is where off-season changes to the NPPL rules find their first application.  For 2005, there weren’t some minor changes to be seen, there was a whole new rule set.  The NPPL rules originated in the early 1990s, with the rules committee of the original NPPL, and league commissioner Steve Davidson.  Over the years various ad-hoc rules committees patched and changed the rules to keep up with the evolution of technology and the game.  One of the problems facing teams and referees alike, was interpretation of the rules.  When enhanced trigger modes came on the scene in the late 1990s, some argued they fit the existing rules, while others argued they did not.  Additionally, the patchwork construction had numerous flaws and loopholes.  An example was a rule that existed even into the new millennium, stating that only one barrel was allowed on the field.  While the rule was intended to mean only one barrel per player was allowed on the field, actual enforcement of the rule as written would have put quite a damper on the game. 

For 2005, the NPPL rules committee gave the rulebook a complete re-vamp.  While the game remained largely, the rules that defined it became better organized and more concisely written.  This was done with not only input from the rules committee, players, and members of the paintball industry, but also from a sports attorney with a background in developing rule sets.  One of the features in the new rule set is the definition of an equipment committee, separate from the rules committee.  This new structure concentrates involved individuals with one set focusing on how the game is played, and another on the details of what equipment is deemed legal for the league.

A major change, that had been decided upon in 2004 was the closure of the pro division.  In previous seasons, playing at the professional level in the NPPL really meant only one thing – paying the pro entry fee, a rate that was higher than that for the other divisions.  Every so often, unheard of teams make a single appearance in the pro division, and end up at the bottom of the prelim rankings.  This is no longer the case in the NPPL.  The Super 7 pro division is locked at a maximum size of eighteen teams.  In order to play at the pro level, teams need to compete and win at the semi-pro level.  At the end of each season, teams are re-ranked, and the lowest pro three teams are bumped down to semi-pro, while the highest three ranked semi-pro teams are given the chance to go pro.  The new structure places pro NPPL athletes in a more elite status.

The new pro division is further closed in that for the 2005 season, the pro teams will only play against each other, breaking the long standing NPPL structure where pros compete against lower classified teams in the preliminary rounds, giving those teams a chance to go up against, and learn from the top dogs.  While this will make competition different for the teams, it opens up more action for the spectators.  All of the games with pro teams will be pro versus pro, ensuring more action, and with a schedule structure putting them all on the same fields consecutively, spectators at the tournament wanting to see professional paintball action can relax in the grandstands, watch game after game, rather than having to wander the site looking between the division 1 through 3 and semi-pro games to find what they are after.

The 2005 NPPL rulebook maker specifications remain in essence the same has they had been for 2004.  Paintguns are limited to semi-auto or pump mode only, and must cannot have firing modes, or velocities adjustable without the use of tools.  Violation of this rule results in disqualification of the entire team from the event.

Leveled beach sand was topped with NPPL Action Turf, rather than the bare sand surface of the original Huntington Beach tournament.  Not only did this make for a faster running surface for players that was less abusive to their equipment, but it also made more practical the post event clean-up to make the beach as beautiful and paint free as before the tournament began.  For HB, it was full speed ahead.  Instead of the customary 5 fields, the tournament was expanded to run on six playing fields.

After roaring through the preliminary rounds – eight games against teams of various ranks, the top teams from each division moved on into the quarterfinal rounds which advanced again just the top of each group to the semifinals.

In the Super 7 unlike older tournament formats, making the semis is a guarantee of making the finals, and placing in the top four.  The semifinals serve to sort the teams for the finals, whether they will play for first and second place, or for third and fourth place.

Added to the mix were the college teams of the college division.  The semis sorted the teams into Arizona State’s Sun Devil’s Gold beating the University of Illinois’ Illini twice in a row, to finish in third place.   Sun Devils Maroon (ASU) faced off against the University of Southern California’s Trojans and also posted two wins in a row, finishing first with the Trojans in second.

In Division III, it came down to FTB Grim against Vicotry vying for third and fourth place.  Victory took a win in the first game, but FTB won the second.  This sent them into a third finals game, where FTB won 97 to 9, taking home the third place trophy.  A religious showdown pitted Sinfull against Heaven and Hell in the top bracket.  Sinfull won the first game, but the second went to Heaven and Hell.  Sinfull took the third game finishing first, with Heaven and Hell in second.  Theologists and philosophers may spend some time debating the meaning of that finals round.

DII finished out with Adema dropping their fist game to Ballistic, but winning the next two for a third place trophy.  Las Vegas based Less Than Zero (LTZ) posted two wins in a row against SD Aftermath for a firs place prize package, with SD finishing second.

Arsenal B defeated in their first finals game, but Paintballerz got the upper hand in the second game.  The two went on to a third game where Arsenal B took the game, and the round, finishing third for Division One.  Wicked fell in their first game to Texas Storm, one of the few teams still rolling under the same name from back in the old school days of the NPPL, though admittedly with fresh faces on the roster.  Wicked took the second game and the third, bringing them in at first place, and Storm in second.

The new semi-pro division saw XS NRG dropping their first game against Distortion, but winning the second.  The third game went to Distortion which finished in third.  The Men posted double wins back to back against Influence for a first place finish, with Influence in second. 

The big game was from the pro division.  Teams that had only faced off against other pro ranked competitors putting a lot of intense action on the field.  Even during the prelims, the pecking order became apparent much faster when a team was ranked not by one or two games with pros, and 6 or 7 against, division one and two teams, but only by match ups with their peers.  As in the NXL, NPPL pro division teams were matched up with city names.  SF Avalanche took out the Portland Naughty Dogs in two consecutive wins for third place.  San Diego Dynasty took a loss to Sacramento XSV in their first game, but won the other two for the trophy, with XSV in third.  Just by following track records over the last year, Dynasty has been the odds on favorite for a finals finish.  In fact, in the three years the NPPL Super 7 has been running, Dynasty has won Huntington Beach each season.  ‘Lanche and the Dogs have also been top consistent top four finishers.  XSV showed that their move up in rankings during the second half of the 2004 season wasn’t a fluke, they’ve latched on to their momentum and will be solid competitors in 2005.

As the event is known for, Huntington Beach finished off in style with awards, parties, and after parties.  From the West Coast, the Super 7 makes its next stop on the West Coast of the SouthEastern US, in Tampa, Florida in May when the series returns to Raymond James Stadium.

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