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NPPL Tampa 2005
 May 13-15, 2005

Dynasty - First Place Pro
Strange - First Place Semi Pro
Farside - First Place Division I
LTZ - First Place Division II
DSO - First Place Division III

For its second event of the 2005 season, the NPPL Super 7 landed in Tampa, Florida.  This season marked the league’s second year on the grounds of Raymond James stadium, a venue that proved effective in 2004 with its ample space, and easy freeway access.  A Central Florida location also meant the tournament was an easy draw for Division II and III teams with smaller travel budgets than more accomplished teams, as the tournament was in driving distance for the southeastern states, and Orlando and Tampa airports tend to be relatively inexpensive travel destinations.

The addition of the semi-pro division in 2005 made room for more teams in the league, and gave them better odds of making the final four.  Tampa boasted over 200 teams registered, setting new size standards for the league. 

After field walking on Thursday afternoon, games started off Friday morning with outstanding paintball weather – sunny skies at a cool 71 degrees.  By mid day the weather warmed up to the mid 80s, but light breezes and clouds kept things comfortable.

As is now standard for the series, the semi-pro, Division 1, 2, and 3 teams had their eight preliminary rounds scheduled for Friday and Saturday with quarterfinals, semifinals and finals on Sunday.  Saturday would be the start of the pro prelims, putting their games only on the weekend.  Also on Sunday would be the finals for the closed pro division.  This marked Sunday as the big day for spectators at the tournament.  The pro teams were competing for a $42,500 prize purse, $25,000 of which would go to the top team.  With second place only pulling in $10,000, third $5,000 and fourth $2,500, the pressure would definitely be on during the semis and finals to finish in that top spot.

Saturday was graced with similar weather to Friday.  Mostly clear skies started out cool, but warmed up without becoming too hot.  Divisions III through semi-pro continued working their way through their eight rounds of preliminary games.  In the afternoon, the pro teams arrived and began their prelims with half of their games scheduled on the NPPL field with its grandstands, VIP room and live webcam.  The remainder of the pro prelim games were held on the Empire field, which provided excellent sideline viewing under the shade of trees, due to its placement at the edge of the trade show.

The tournament’s trade show had somewhat of a county fair feel to it, as crowded paved walkways guided players, spectators and shoppers under a grassy grove of shade trees to browse between the display semis from the league’s major sponsors, and numerous tents from smaller companies ranging from Florida paintball fields and stores to product manufacturers. 

Walking through the site with information about the IAO were Debra and Ryan Krishke of Team Effort Events.  The International Amateur Open in Pittsburgh, PA stands as one of the longest running annual events in the world of paintball, with 2005 marking its fifteenth year.  As in years past the tournament will be tied in with the sports largest industry conference, an event where field and store owners are given an opportunity to network, meet with distributors and suppliers, as well as partake in paintball oriented business development workshops.  A significant change for this season’s IAO is that competition in Division II and III will earn teams points toward the 2005 NPPL Super 7 series. 

According to NPPL President Chuck Hendsch, NPPL sanctioning of the International Amateur Open is just a taste of what is to come in 2006.  While the Super 7 has moved to operating on 6 fields, one more than its first two seasons, there are still practical limits to how many teams can be run on those fields during a three day event.  Both the 2005 kick off event in Huntington Beach, and Tampa sold out quickly.  For the league as well as Pure Promotions, the company which produces the Super 7 events under the NPPL’s sanction, the sell-out condition creates a quandary.  Further expanding the size of the events would stretch resources and risk the quality of the tournaments.  On the other hand, restricting the events to about 200 teams total and play on six fields means turning teams away and limiting their ability to earn points towards the annual series titles.  According to Hendsch this is where further use of feeder series will come in, primarily with Divisions II and III, which are the most impacted. 

By sanctioning additional tournament series under the NPPL umbrella, newer teams will be able to compete in regional competitions for Super 7 World Series points, and potentially at some point for the right to compete in one of the 5 major events.  It is planned that the sanctioning of feeder series will both allow for continued growth of the Super 7, while maintaining quality of its major events.

Saturday’s games completed the prelims, and by the close of the day’s action, the rankings, based on total scores after eight games played, determined which teams would move on to Sunday morning’s quarterfinal round. DSO topped the Division III teams which advanced.  Out of the field of 65 teams, the top 16 moved on, and this group included Huntington Beach’s second and third placed teams Heaven & Hell and FTB-Grimm.  The fourth place team from Huntington Beach, Victory didn’t make the Tampa cut.

The 68 teams of division II were also narrowed down to 16.  All of Huntington Beach’s final four competed in Tampa, but only SD Aftermath and LTZ made the cut, Aftermath at a rank of third and LTZ at fourteenth.  TCP Machine and X-Factor ranked top for the division.

In Division I, the cut was much more generous.  This was due to a 2005 rule change which changed how teams advance.  In 2005, 32 teams would be needed in a division to advance 16.  In 2004, quarterfinals were restructured so that 12 teams would advance if there were between 24 and 31 teams, or 16 if there were 32 or more teams.  Under the 2005 season rules (24.02) a division of 24 or more teams creates 16 quarterfinalists.  With two teams as no-shows out of the 28 scheduled for D-I, only ten out of 26 teams were sent home.  Both Wicked and Texas Storm, which placed first and second in Huntington Beach were among the top teams, which were led by Atomix Factory and MOD Div 1.  

The SemiPro Division, with only 21 teams was three shy of the 24 team break, so only eight teams advanced to the quarters.  Ironmen and Bad Company were the leaders there.  Hate Crew was the last team to make the break, leading by 5 points over Distortion.

The pro teams, of course were the source of much attention, with their games on the prime fields for high visibility fields.  Small groups of fans waiting at the entrance to the player paddock in the hope of grabbing autographs of high profile players on their way to or from the field were a common sight.  Of the 18 teams, little more than half were sent home by the cut which trimmed them down to eight teams.  Los Angeles Infamous topped the pro prelims, followed by Sacramento XSV, Oakland Empire, San Diego Dynasty, DC Arsenal, San Francisco Avalanche, Portland Naughty Dogs, and the Tigers.

Sunday was met with fair weather that warmed into the mid 80s by the middle of the day.  Division III, with its 16 quarterfinal teams was split into four brackets.  After three rounds of play, each team facing the other three teams in its bracket, the top team from each bracket was advanced to the semifinals.  These teams were DSO, Circle Factory, Spraypaint and Exodus Vatos Logos.

Division II had the same number of quarterfinal teams, and advanced LTZ, TCP Machine, LA Bushwackers and Goon Squad to the semis.  Emerging from the Division I quarterfinals were Viewloader, Farside, Atomix Factory and Jax Warriors.

For the semi-pro teams the top two from each of two brackets moved on.  These were The Ironmen, Shockwave CA, Strange and Famous.  The new format pro quarterfinal games put 8 pro teams in a single bracket, where they played 7 games, one each against all of the other pro quarterfinal teams.  The top four moved on to the semifinals.  These were Oakland Empire, San Diego Dynasty, LA Infamous and Sacramento XSV.

In the semifinals, the top two teams from the quarters played against each other in a best two out of three format, as did the third and fourth ranked teams.  The winners from the semifinals faced each other in the finals to play best 2 out of 3 for first and second place, while the losers did the same for third and fourth place.

In the finals DSO dropped their first game against Circle Factory, but won the next two, securing first place for Division III.  Spraypaint posted back to back wins over Exodus Vatos Locos for third in the same division.

In Division II first place went to Less Than Zero (LTZ) by way of a win, then a loss and another win over second place TCP Machine.  This marked two D II first place wins in a row for LTZ, last year’s second ranked D III team.  LA Bushwackers won, lost then won against Goon Squad to secure third place.

The boys from Illinois, Farside beat Viewloader two games straight for first place in Division I.  Jax Warriors, fresh from a first place finish at PSP Orlando posted a pair of wins over Atomix Factory for third place.

Strange, well accustomed to playing in Florida weather handed The Ironmen a pair of losses.  That put strange in first place for the Semi-Pro division, and Ironmen second.  Shockwave Canada similarly beat Famous twice in a row for third.

The big show was, of course the pro finals, and both brackets failed to disappoint.  In the first round San Diego Dynasty beat Sacramento XSV 98 to 6.  That match-up was a serious showdown, as Dynasty has been the dominant team in the Super 7 ever since the NPPL adopted the format, finishing in the top ranking for 2003 and 2004.  XSV, on the other hand was newer to the league, consisting largely of former NXL players, but found their way hot on Dynasty’s heels.  In 2004, they ranked second at the end of the season, and in 2005 at Huntington Beach, Dynasty took home the trophy, but only after a tie, then a pair of wins against XSV.  In the second round the two teams ties, hinging the trophy on their third and final game.  That win went to Dynasty, 98 to 6.  The battle for third place was between Oakland Empire and LA Infamous.  Oakland took the first game, then the two tied 19 to 19.  The third round was in Oakland’s favor 99 to 3.

At a Super 7, the event isn’t over with the last game, that is just the kick off time for the post-event parties.  At the end of the festivities however, the NPPL and Pure Promotions crews jump right back to work in planning for Denver, stop number three on their five leg tour of the US.  From Denver the series will go to San Diego, which had been its last stop for 2004.  The season ender, the Commander’s Cup, will be held at Bicentennial Park in Miami.  While the city is not new to the NPPL (the 2003 Commander’s Cup was held there) the venue is, and its open grass fields and shoreline location hold much promise.

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