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PSP Las Vegas Open 2002
May 1-5, 2002
Las Vegas, Nevada
The second Paintball Sports Promotions tournament of 2002 was held in what is a new venue for PSP, but not for paintball. The city of Las Vegas is nothing new, but the field location is. The All American Sports complex at the south end of the Las Vegas strip was host to the 2001 Pan Am Circuit season ending tournament. The complex, with its bar, restaurant, snack bar, roller arena, stadium seating, batting cages, climbing wall, and go-cart track has ample space inside for sheltered team staging and trade show. Outside, bare dirt fields constructed by PSP were set up for both the 5 man and 10 man competitions.
Also new to this event was the name - specifically the lack of NPPL in the tournament title. While NPPL league officials, including president Chuck Hendsch maintain that the Las Vegas Open is an NPPL sanctioned tournament with the NPPL counting points earned there toward the 2002 NPPL series, Paintball Sports Promotions' materials for the teams were completely devoid of the National Professional Paintball League name. During the week of the tournament representatives from both the NPPL and PSP planned to meet to further negotiate the possibility of the two getting back together. Hendsch expressed confidence that whatever comes out of the negotiation, the NPPL will continue to grow and work toward the growth of the sport of paintball.
In the meantime, Paintball Sports Promotions will rank teams and award series points in their events. Additionally they have announced that this year's World Cup in Orlando Florida will feature 5 and 10 man finals held not at their traditional Kissimmee location, but a few miles away at Disney's ABC Wild World Of Sports complex, a venue that is expected to bring the tournament to a new level of quality and professionalism.
Forty-two mile an hour gusty winds made set up of the field netting quite a chore. At one point during construction a wind gust broke a series of 20 four by four wood poles. At other times 4" square steel tubing poles were bent by the wind loading on the net. The PSP staff left some of the final construction until as late the day before the 5 man as possible, in the hopes of the winds abating.
Scheduling of the games also took a new twist. The PSP/NPPL series use a unique game scheduling method that crosses lines between the team classifications during preliminary rounds, and then separates them during semifinals and finals. With the complexity of this system, errors have crept into schedules at past events while copying team names from one form to another. Using a beta version of software written by Bill Mills of WARPIG.com, with much assistance in explanation of the scheduling methods by PSP's Jerry Braun, the Las Vegas schedules represented the first PSP tournament where the cross-class prelims were scheduled by computer. The 5 player schedules were generated entirely by computer, while the 10 player schedules were generated by hand with a portion of the game sets being based on a computer generated schedule.
The 5 man preliminary games started on Wednesday morning, and continued through the day. While the winds had definitely lessened compared to the previous day, wind damaged netting caused one of three fields used to be shut down a short time for repair, slowing progress through the schedule. The competition was overseen by referees from PRO, and members of Shocktech.
By the end of the day on Wednesday, most of the 5 man prelims were completed, with the remainder planned for Thursday morning to be followed by finals for the amateurs, and semifinals for the novice and rookie teams. The amateurs were solidly led by Brimstone Smoke. It should be noted though, that three amateur teams still had 3 games each to play, and like Smoke, Sharp Shooters Black had posted four wins and a loss in their first five games. Trauma NJ, a last minute entry team that felt they really belonged in the Novice category also was short 3 games and was two points ahead of Sharp Shooters Black. With 6 amateur teams competing, there would be 2 teams cut while four went on to the finals.
Las Vegas Blitz was the leader of the novice teams, but again, there were teams that hadn't finished all of their games. Sharp Shooters Gray was still short three games, but was undefeated. Since the novices were going to semifinals, 2 of the 10 teams would not go on.
Similarly, of the 10 rookie teams, 8 would move on to the semifinals. Crush started out in the first position, and was still on top at the end of the day, having won all eight of their prelim games. The rookie classification now has the limitation that a team may only play in it twice, and at World Cup, before moving on up to the novice class - to keep it to teams that are truly new, and prevent sandbagging.
Team Maxim, one of the teams appearing in the rookie class has played in the NEPL and Aruba Open in the past. They were doing double duty in Las Vegas by playing in the tournament and doing a photo shoot at the Palms hotel for Maxim magazine, featuring members of Femmes Fatale and paintguns from numerous manufacturers.
The 5 man prelims finished on Thursday. SharpShooters Black picked up points while finishing their games and topped Brimstone Smoke. Shadow Factory and Ball Busters were the two amateur teams to not make the finals. In the novice bracket Aces Wild led the pack followed by Sharp Shooters Gray 104 points later. Storm and Team X were cut from the novice pack while 8 teams advanced to the semifinals.
For the rookies team Crush was in the lead with Ambush hot on their tail. Back Woods Blaze and Dirty Mags both did not make the cut. Dirty Mags, when it became clear that they would not go on, withdrew from the tournament affecting other team's scores and rankings by giving automatic 95s to their two remaining competitors, Back Woods Blaze, and Thepaintballlifestyle.com.
EXC Factory team pulled up a switch in the amateur finals. They entered as the last ranked team, and exited at the top, taking home the first place trophy. Brimstone Smoke finished in second, Trauma New Jersey in third, and Sharp Shooters Black in fourth.
The novice teams played their semifinals in two divisions, Shadowmen ranked top of the four finalists that round produced, followed by Tropical Illuzion, RIP and Aces Wild. The rookies also played in two divisions, with Rude Illuzion being the first ranked finalist out of that round, followed by Crush, Wicked Junkies and Ragnarok.
Shadowmen placed first in the novice class, winning two of their three finals games. RIP placed second, 18 points behind. 10 points below them was third place Tropical Illuzion followed by fourth place Aces Wild.
Wicked Junkies was the rookie winner with Crush in second, Rude Illuzion in third, and Ragnarok in fourth. The 5 man games finished well ahead of sundown, giving time for a brief awards ceremony inside the sports complex while the 10 man teams walked the fields for their Friday morning games.
Scheduling of the 10 man proved to be a challenge. The schedule was manually created by PSP's Jerry Braun, using a portion of the software generated schedule as a base, but re-arranging teams to provide a more compact schedule (the computer generated version had a number of "dead" fields near the end of the day to avoid back to back games). A couple of minor changes were made after the schedule was published, but the real problem came when it was learned that the bunkers were not likely to be set up in time. Braun worked quickly to reschedule the games from that field in a way that would provide minimal disruption from the published schedule, by taking all the games from that field, and scheduling them into a block Saturday evening. The schedule was meant as a fallback, as the PSP crew rallied to ensure that the field would be up and operational for the games on Friday morning.
Field four was up and running in time for the 8:00 start time, and the Friday weather was clear and without significant winds for most of the day. Most being the operative word. A midday whirlwind touched down on the site and wreaked a bit of havoc. It tore inflatable bunkers loose from field 7 and hurled them over the netting into the neighboring field. Paintball 2 Xtremes assistant editor Josh Silverman, who was taking photos from the sidelines said "In 10 years of paintball I've never seen anything like that - I've never seen a bunker fifty feet in the air before."
Games were refereed by Ironmen, Dynasty, The Family, Warped Kids and PRO referees. A couple of well known players slipped out of retirement for this event. "Spud" Jackson, who's 2000 season retirement from Aftershock was featured in the documentary "Push" played for Shocktech Factory team. Shane Pestana, who retired from the Ironmen after World Cup 2001 played alongside Spud. Pestana, who hails from Southern California had helped out with the operation of the Los Angeles Open and commented then that it was hard watching the tournament without playing.
Jax Warriors played their first Friday games without Frank Connell as he was finishing out a six game suspension penalty issued at the Los Angeles Open.
Following an afternoon game, a Ground Zero Gold player struck a Hurricanes player, resulting in a six game suspension. This left GZ Gold in the position having to play their games one player short in the remaining prelims, and the first game of the semifinals if they made the cut, or the first game in Chicago if they didn't.
All eight fields used were set up with inflatable bunkers. Field eight featured the debut of a new Ultimate Airball bunker shape. Eight snakes were arranged as legs around the new spider body shaped bunker. The spider's body provided full cover for two standing players, while the "knees" of the spider's legs arched up high enough to be crawled under or shot under. This made for some very interesting moves, and four players in the center, two on each side of the body were not uncommon.
Indoors Bauer unveiled a new product still in prototype form. Their new test air system is designed for airsmiths and paintgun factory service techs, to provide working air at consistent pressure from bleedable lines for testing paintguns on a workbench without having to constantly refill an HPA system.
The NPPL had a booth with league information, Upper Deck trading cards of Dynasty and Avalanche members, and the new video Smoked from Engram productions. The music packed documentary follows games on the fields of World Cup 2001, and was available at a discounted price to NPPL League members. Because the video is an NPPL licensed production (the league name and logo are a part of the title) a portion of the proceeds of video sales will help fund the league. Licensing and marketing partnerships are what NPPL president Chuck Hendsch sees as an important part of the league's future.
The 10 man games in the Friday schedule were free from back to back placements, but had a number teams had to play games that were only one game (20 minutes) apart, many of whom complained loudly about not only the fast turn around time requirements but of getting six or seven games scheduled in the same day. Games ended up running far enough behind that the sun set before they could be completed. The unfinished Friday games were moved to Saturday morning, and the pressure was on, to catch up in order to have time for all of the semifinals and finals games to be completed on Sunday.
By mid-day Saturday games were running as far as three hours behind schedule, and PSP's Jerry Braun issued an apology letter to teams and members of the press clarifying that the computer based scheduling was not the source of the schedule problems, and held promise to avoid similar problems in the future.
A contributing factor to game delays was the event layout. Like the Pan Am tournament in November of 2000, staging space was available to teams under a large tent in the back of the sports complex. A fenced "backyard" to the building made an excellent space for this use, but walking around the fence to its one open gate added distance between staging and games. Players were left with a fair walk back to prep and clean gear between games, especially if they were playing on one of the far fields. Paintball Sports Promotion offered to have a section of the fence opened as a temporary gate, and then rebuilt after the tournament giving the teams a direct "as the crow flies" path to the fields. The management did not find this acceptable, so it was not done.
In a marked difference from the second PSP produced tournament of 2001, at a similar sports complex in Gettysburg, PA, locally hired day workers buzzed the tournament staging areas keeping on top of the trash situation, and with the exception of where a few teams staged under paint trailers, the site was kept much cleaner than Gettysburg. Tony Lohning of Adrenalin 2 commented that crews came regularly through the staging tent picking up trash and asking if they had anything that needed hauling out. Unfortunately, several of the local workers hired to clean staging areas had work hours that ended before the games that had run late, and in the evening some trash piles had gotten quite large, with some of the Paintball Sports Promotions' administrative staff having to jump in and handle the situation personally.
At the same time, there was also a step forward. PSP's staff set up an enclosed chronograph range for tuning and testing of paintguns off the field.
As is typical at a paintball tournament, referees drew both praise and criticism. While some players complained that the PRO referees were inattentive, others commented that they were acting more decisively, and had a better understanding of the rules than the team refs.
While both Friday and Saturday proved to be hot and dusty, they were not windy, and the field netting held in place. During a Saturday afternoon game Billy Ceranski of Aftershock fired at the netting in response to Ground Zero's Will Arroyo talking from off-field. Ceranski was penalized with a 6 game suspension, with Shock having to play short one player for each of those six games that would occur at the Las Vegas event.
Fortunately, the Saturday prelim games were meant to end at four thirty which was hours before sunset. By the time games finished for the night, there were from one to 3 prelim games left to play on each field. These games were planned to be finished on Sunday morning, and if a good pace could be kept, the tournament was expected to run to completion.
Saturday afternoon also saw the re-launch of P8NT magazine. Despite rampant internet rumors of P8NT having disappeared for good, the magazine is back in print once again. While it still carries the edgy imagery defined by photo editor Chris Dilts, it is now perfect bound (a square glued binding, instead of wire staples) with higher quality paper, and a thick matte finish cover. The summer 2001 launch of Facefull magazine raised the bar for professional appearance of paintball magazines, and P8NT felt their publication should rise in physical quality, but still hang on to their core tournament culture feel. "I believe in what we're doing," said Dilts. "We're keeping hold of our artistic and creative integrity. The new format is a step up - a natural progression." The magazine staff has been expanded with the spring additions of the Ironmen's Matt Marshall providing West Coast editorial, and Keely Watson of The Family and Femmes Fatale wielding her camera. P8NT has managed to capture the feel of the tournament scene in a way not felt in other magazines, and their return was welcomed by players in Vegas.
Saturday night meant exposure for paintball to a non-paintball crowd. The EA Sports Supercross Challenge was being held at the MGM. Motocross fans tuned in on pay per view, and came to Vegas to watch. Powerade was looking for an extra attention getter for their booth, and teamed up with National Paintball Supply, and JT to provide a shooting booth giving people a taste of the game. Some of the supercross competitors who play paintball, ended up picking up new gear for themselves.
Informal discussions between NPPL and PSP leadership left the league/promoter split situation as fairly permanent. PSP is definitely geared to continue the PSP series without the league, and the NPPL is underway with plans for their own events.
The last of the 10 man prelim games wrapped up on Sunday morning, with semifinals starting just after 10:00 am, getting the tournament finally back on schedule.
Bob Long's Ironmen ended up finishing as the pro leader, which was not much of a shock, because they were undefeated. They were followed by Avalanche who only dropped one game. Rage finished in third with a single loss and a score of 666, leading to jokes that the devil was on their roster. The pro division prelims really were full of surprises. The cross-class scheduling system gives an advantage to coming into a tournament as a higher ranked team (i.e. the teams have earned their status with past performance). With 14 pro teams competing, and the number of Novices and Ams available, each pro played three pro games in the prelims. For the upper ranked pro teams they were scheduled to play one top half pro, and two from the bottom half of the rankings. For bottom half pros, they've got to go up against two upper half pros, and only one from the bottom. Literally they need to fight their way into the semis. When the game matrix (who plays who) and schedule (where they play them and when) were available, Chino Carbajal of Rage was definitely unhappy with their draw. Clearly they overcame that at this event, as shown by their rank going into semis. Similarly, the pro semis were made up of just as many teams from the bottom half of the rankings as from the top. Even the Ton Ton Flingeurs, who came in as the bottom ranked pro team made the cut to semis while the top ranked All Americans did not. Definitely the Vegas prelims had unexpected results.
Naughty Dogs topped the amateurs, also undefeated. Clearly they've now had time to get it all together cohesively after their roster changes for 2002. Shocktech factory team ranked second, another team making it through the prelims undefeated. Third ranked Brimstone Smoke had team owner Milt Call very pleased, as they had only started playing 10 man format in the summer of 2001, and hadn't had much time for practice between LA and Vegas. Farside made the cut, ranking 6th, without playing their last game. Having a number of injuries already through the prelims they didn't want to risk more on a game that didn't affect their advancement to semis. By forfeiting, they gave Urban Quest a 95 that placed them in the Rookie 2 ranked position, still well above the Rookie cut, so the only thing the forfeit might have affected was Quests' semifinal division, save for the fact that Urban Quest 2 finished as the first ranked as the top rookie, meaning that Quest would have to be placed in the other division regardless of rank, since they were sister teams. Attitude finished prelims as the third ranked rookie team and Ultra Ego as fourth. Ego's Dave Heckett commented that he had players scheduled to fly out at 5:00 pm, but vowed that if they were in the finals he'd play with only 6 players if he had to, pushing to take the team as far as they could go.
With 60 rookie teams, 16 got to go on to the semifinals. Even then a larger percentage of novs were sent home in the semifinal cut than any other class. Their prelims followed much more predictable lines. Gridlock came to the tournament as the second ranked novice team, and finished the prelims in first, posting a single loss. KAPP Factory who started in the first seat, finished second. Static didn't start out as high, they were the 8th ranked team for the season so far, but they finished third in prelim points. Rebellion finished in 16, making the cut at 499 points.
Meanwhile the sports complex had double-booked their facility, with an indoor football league game in synthetic turf in their roller hockey arena. Many of the football fans got a glimpse of the paintball games, and of the products on some of the vendor's tables inside.
Semifinals are played in divisions of four teams, so each team plays three games - one against each team in their division. Since the rookies had two divisions, the top two teams in each division advanced, ranked by total score. Splat Factory WGP had the top slot after a loss and two wins, followed 7 points behind by Team Vivid, then Urban Quest and Ultra Ego.
The novices had four divisions, so the top team in each advanced. KAPP Factory now led the novice teams with two wins and a loss, while ESP Eclipse ranked second, Static third, and Rebellion fourth.
In the first pro division, Bob Long's Ironmen played with two wins and a loss, while Strange grabbed three wins, the pair advancing from their division. In the first of two amateur divisions Naughty Dogs and Trauma went on, and players waited anxiously for the remaining pro and am second division games to get the schedules and fields for the pro games.
The second pro division games wrapped up with Aftershock and Avalanche moving on to the finals. Aftershock had a couple of very exciting games. During all three semi games they had to play with 9 players instead of 10, due to Ceranski's suspension. Against avalanche, the game came down to 'Shock's Todd Adamson facing Jeremy Salm and Eric Roberts. Adamson took them both out and got the win. In their game against Bad Company, 'Shock got whittled down to Adamson and Mike Bruno versus Rob Lessner and Colby Gallagher. Bruno got hit taking it to a two on one, where Adamson prevailed again. Point wise the pros ranked as Strange, 'Shock, 'Lanche and Bob's Men.
In the second amateur division Shocktech came out with a win for their first game, but a loss for their second. Farside won all three of their games, as did Shockwave Canada. The last game between Brimstone Smoke and Shocktech was important. If Shocktech won, or even stalemated, they could top Shockwave's score and move on. They were defeated by Brimstone Smoke which left both teams out of the running. The amateur finalists advanced into their last games ranked as Farside, Naughty Dogs, Trauma, and Shockwave Canada.
The finals put Aftershock's first game against Avalanche, which was the last game of the suspension, meaning they would be full strength to face Bob Long's Ironmen and Strange. Aftershock won that first game 93 to 14, while Strange beat Bob Long's Ironmen 95 to 10 giving them a 2 point lead at the end of the first round. Strange fell to Avalanche 14 to 43 in their first loss of the whole tournament while Bob Long's Ironmen beat Aftershock 92 to 16. With a pro spread from 102 to 109 (with Shock and strange tied), everything came down to the last two games, every elimination and live player at the end of the game could count. The teams were so close in score that literally anyone come in first. Aftershock took down Strange earning 94 points. This meant that Avalanche would need to beat Bob Long's Ironmen and have 7 or more of their players alive to catch up. They didn't the game ended in a stalemate and Aftershock went home with the first place trophy.
The first round of amateur games had Farside beating Shockwave Canada 93 to 14, and Trauma stalemating against the Naughty Dogs winning on points at 22 to 16. Trauma beat the Naughty Dogs and Shockwave Canada stalemated with Farside. Their games ended with Trauma in first place, Naughty Dogs in second, Farside in third, and Shockwave Canada in fourth.
The first novice round KAPP Factory beat Rebellion 99 to 2, while Static beat ESP Eclipse 98 to 4. Rebellion earned their second win against ESP Eclipse 99 to 6, then Static beat the KAPP Factory team. In the last novice round Rebellion was taken by Static who secured first place with the win. KAPP beat ESP Eclipse 94 to 12 leaving the final rankings at Static in first place, KAPP Factory in second, Rebellion in third and ESP Eclipse in fourth.
In the rookie finals Splat Factory WGP stalemated with Ultra Ego in their first game, 20 to 18. Urban Quest beat Team Vivid 98 to 4. Ultra Ego then had another stalemate with Team Vivid, and Urban Quest took their second win against Splat Factory WGP 92 tp 16. Ultra Ego beating Urban Quest 92 to 16. Team Vivid beat Splat Factory WGP 92 to 16. This finish was Urban Quest in first, Ultra Ego in second, Team Vivid in third and Splat Factory WGP in fourth.
Historically, Las Vegas Open tournaments have had an environment that was at best described as "hard." Hot dry air, hard rocky soil, and the long hours that accompany large events make tournaments in the area a challenge for not only competing teams but an endurance marathon for referees as well. A schedule that gave a number of prominent teams the majority of their preliminary games in a single day made enduring the harsh environment even more challenging, and it is a testament to these teams that a number of them were top finishers. This year's Las Vegas PSP was no exception to this past. It did however represent a major step forward from the sites used in the late 1990s, as parking, staging, tournament administration and vendor booths all had the benefits of civilisation in the All Sport complex. When the event was over, the parking and staging areas were a far cry from clean, but still nothing to the level of Ghettysburg 2001. From here, the Paintball Sports Promotion series heads to Chicago, and the NPPL to venues and promoters that are yet to be announced.
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