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PSP Paintball World Cup
NXL Champions - Philly Americans
Dynasty - First
Place Pro X-Ball
The Paintball World Cup stands since its inception in the early 1990s as the big event in paintball. It has always held the biggest draw of 5 man teams from its series, the biggest draw of 10 man teams and the most X Ball teams. While staying centralized just outside of Orlando, Florida, it has changed venues over the years. From the woods of the Paintball World field in Kissimmee, it grew into the surrounding grass fields adjacent to Kissimmeeís Old Town shopping and nightlife attraction. When it outgrew that space, it moved to an open grass auction field not far away and took on its carnival atmosphere, a first that is now standard in the countryís largest paintball events. The tournament continued to be held in the same location each October Ė until Paintball Sports Promotion caught Disneyís eye.
In 2001 Jerry Braun, one of the partners in Paintball Sports Promotions, escorted Disney World management staff around the World Cup site. They were impressed with what they saw, but cautious. As a test event, the 2002 Paintball World Cup was immediately followed (World Cup ended on a Saturday and this event was Sunday) by the NXLís first public appearance. The teams that formed the NXL competed in an exhibition tournament on a single field at Disneyís Wide World of Sports. This gave Disneyís crew a chance to evaluate the impact of a paintball tournament on their meticulously groomed grass fields and their pristine parking areas.
What Disney saw, they liked, and the 2003 Paintball World Cup was held at the Wide World of Sports. Again Disney was impressed, to the point that they approached Paintball Sports Promotions for a 5-year contract to host 2 events each season. For Paintball Sports Promotions the new venue was also well received. Although it cost less to rent than some of the other venues the series had used in 2003, not only was it well maintained with lush, green grass, but Disney already had the staff in place to offer many services, from constantly refilled cold water coolers throughout the site and parking shuttles to carry people from their cars to the field down to clearing trees and laying new sod to make room for all of the eventís fields. Despite the increased level of amenities Disney, unlike a number of venue operators did not charge for parking, nor did PSP charge for spectator admission, helping bring out a large crowd of spectators Ė even some tourists who happened on the tournament while taking a Disney vacation.
The 2004 season turned out to actually hold three paintball events at Disney World. The Wide World of Sports complex hosted the PSPís second event of the season, the Orlando Cup, as well as the National Collegiate Paintball Associationís finals and of course the Paintball World Cup.
A schedule change was made for the 2004
Paintball World Cup that broke from tradition. Like the 2002 season,
the 2004 World Cup culminated on a Saturday rather than a Sunday.
This year the change was not to accommodate an exhibition and test a new
venue, but rather to accommodate families. By ending on Saturday
the 30th of October, the tournamentís competitors could be back home on
the 31st for Halloween.
With the NXLís television deal brokered by Dick Clark Productions, a television intensive field was designed, with 30 cameras to document the full length of the finals game. This full length X-Ball game was scheduled to air on ESPN 2, December 9th at 1pm EST, again later in the day at 5pm EST, and then a third time on December 16th at 6pm EST. For the nine teams of the NXL, playing the last two seasons in a league that was designed with the goal of televising pro paintball, this marked a major milestone.
Heading into the Playoffs, the NXL Eastern Conference was led by Baltimore Trauma, leading over last yearís champions, the Philly Americans and third ranked New York Xtreme. Ranking last in the division was Miami Effect. Mid season Effect captain Chris Lasoya left the team, with the rest of the roster following, to form Infamous. At the same time, the team franchise changed hands, being sold from Richmond Italia to William Gardner, Jr. Gardner reformed Effect under the leadership of former All American player ďRowdyĒ MacDonald. As with any fresh roster, the team took time to come together. That factor, combined with inheriting the teamís stats from earlier in the season brought Miami into the playoffs in the Eastern Conferenceís bottom rank, and as its leader in penalties assessed.
The Western Conference of the NXL features five teams, rather than four, due to the addition of the expansion team, San Diego Legacy at the start of the season. The Western teams, and in fact the whole league were led by the Oakland Assassins. Following Oakland in the rankings were Chicago Aftershock, the Los Angeles Ironmen, Detroit Strange, and San Diego Legacy, which led the league in penalties.
Five man competition started off the tournament Saturday morning, as the teams utilized both the 5/10 man fields and X-Ball fields. This spread the action across the entire site through the day. Each specific field layout gave a different style of play. The 5/10 man fields were laid out with sponsor logos of Empire, National, JT and Shocktech. The National field with five man teams playing on it was relatively sleepy with the larger monolith style bunker in the middle seeming to psyche out the players by limiting the view down the field. The refs on this field worked out a good plan of pulling armbands, a dead player's band was looped after it was pulled while the live player's bands were kept straight as the players checked off the field. At the end of the game it was an easy count to determine dead and alive players for the score sheet.
The Empire field had a two sided snake system on it, ensuring a good flow and push to the games, achieving the cross-field shots to really make or break a game. The JT field was different than in years past with fewer bunkers and a less intrusive middle bunker. Being alot less cumbersome with just two triangles to make up the middle section, it was a good bunker design instead of the pavilion it had been in season's past. The Shocktech field was not unlike the Empire field with games flowing well and evenly.
On the centrally located NXL field San Diego Legacy faced off against the Los Angeles Ironmen. Because only one expansion team entered the league in 2004, the Western Conference had an odd number of teams, while the Eastern was even. In order to have a balanced play-off with 4 teams per conference, LA and San Diego had to compete in a best of three elimination round. The first game went to Los Angeles with a score of 11 to 8. The Ironmen also won the second, but not by as great of a margin. Their final score was 8 to 7.
The five man teams wrapped up their eight preliminary games at around 5:30 pm on Sunday afternoon with 148 Rookie teams having fought for 32 spots to quarter finals, 70 Novice teams with 24 slots to the quarter finals and 11 Pro Am teams for the standard 8 spot semi final round. With 148 teams just the rookie 5 man division alone was bigger than most regional and even many national tournaments. Such is the scale of the Paintball World Cup.
The rookie cut was 510 after three losses and the novice cut followed suit with three losses and a cut of 536, the pro am cut had a lot more leeway at 412 and four drops. The five man teams would hit the fields on Monday for semi finals and finals for all three divisions, leaving the other fields open for walking.
A surprise to many was the addition of a quarterfinal round in the 5 man competition. PSPís rules committee made an ad-hoc decision for World Cup, to add a quarterfinal round for the rookie and novice teams. This came following the large number of teams that had registered. While the quarterfinal system does not yet appear in the rules, Ultimate Judge Robert Rose stated that the new quarterfinal rule will be in place for the 2005 season. According to Rose, the cut-off will be around 80 or 90 teams in a particular division, just as 32 teams has been the breaking point as to whether a division has semifinals or goes straight to finals.
The top 32 rookie teams based on their total scores in the preliminary rounds advanced to the quarterfinals where they were split into eight divisions of four teams each. Each team played three games, competing against the other three teams in its division, and at the end of the round the top two teams from each division advanced to the semifinals, again ranked by total score. The same was done for the novice division took 24 teams into the quarterfinals, breaking them into six divisions of four. Again, after 3 games, the top two teams in each division moved on to the semifinals. For the pro/am 5 man teams, Monday morning was a chance to sleep in, as they advanced the top eight teams from the prelims straight to the traditional semifinals.
The semifinals featured a more harsh cut for the novice and rookie teams. Three of the four teams in each division went home at the end of the round, while the top team from each advanced to the finals. For the pro/ams with only two semifinal divisions, the top two teams from each advanced. By this point, some teams had really begun to shine. Rookie teams LTZ and Naughty Dogs Jr., were undefeated in their semifinals games, as were NebraskaPaintball.com and Hi-Tech Factory Team in the novice semis.
When it came to the finals there are three things that definitely go together Ė Naughty Dogs, 5 Man and World Cup. Naughty Dogs, Inc., rolled through their three pro/am finals games losing a game to 3J $kull Hunters. Even though the Dogs lost that game, they did pull the flag first, getting the points they needed to secure their record breaking fourth consecutive 5 Man World Cup win. In 2001, and 2002 they took home the trophies for the amateur division, and for 2003 and 2004 they did it as pro/ams. Backlash finished second, losing only to the Dogs, while 3J $kull Hunters finished third and NRG fourth.
In the 5 Man novice division it was NebraskaPaintball.com finishing first with three wins. That win also gave them a tie for first place in the 5 man novice series. Hi-Tech Factory team lost two games, but like the Dogs managed a first pull in their game against Nebraska, which gave them a second place finish. Team Splatball finished third followed by Spectrum PR from Puerto Rico.
Despite a loss in the first finals round to GA-Extreme, rookie team NorthwestPaintball.com won their remaining two games and finished in first place. Team LTZ out of Las Vegas, dropping only one game to Northwest, finished second. That second place win was enough to give them the rookie series trophy. Naughty Dogs Jr., didnít fare as well as their sister team, but did get a win against GA-Extreme, ranking them in third, while GA took fourth.
For most of the X-Ball teams coming to World Cup, the tournament was about earning points towards the series title, but where that would place them was confusing to many. Over the nearly two seasons of X-Ball competition, the league had become out of balance, due largely to a lack of class advancement. Because divisional X-Ball is played in a double-elimination format, it becomes less practical to play with very large divisions.
Division 1, also referred to as pro/am was small, while D-2 had grown significantly, as had Division 3. To put the divisions on a more even keel, teams were reclassified going into World Cup. The D-1 teams, most of whom are classified as pro wherever else they play, were moved into the new X-Ball pro division. This is a division that hadnít been formed initially as most of the pro teams in the start of the 2003 season had either moved into the NXL or chose to play the Super 7 series and not PSP. As time has passed, teams coming back, or to play both circuits populated D-1, making it mostly pro teams. All of the teams moving up from D-1 to Pro, brought their full series points with them.
Teams were moved up from Division 2 to fill Division 1, and sorted between Divisions 2 and 3, to create a more even distribution. Depending on the direction of the move, series points were adjusted accordingly.
Dynasty came to World Cup with the series title in the bag. Their series total points were already 102 points higher than second ranked Infamous. With a tournament win yielding 100 series points, they were unstoppable. The only question unanswered was if they would bring home the trophy for winning World Cup as well as being series champions. Avalanche didnít have such a strong leas over third ranked Naughty Dogs though Ė a slim 14 points separated the teams, meaning either could end up in second place for the season. Further down the food chain, were Excessive, and Jax Worriors. The Worriors were trailing Avalanche by 40 points.
The team that was the focus of so much attention though, was Russian Legion. Despite not having a track record of US wins, the team has received a lot of attention in the paintball media over the last several seasons, largely due to their very aggressive training regimen. The training paid off at the NorthEast Open where they played Division 1 X-Ball for the first time. They defeated Avalanche in the first round and Infamous in the second. In the third round Dynasty handed them a loss, but they defeated Infamous a second time in the loserís bracket, and came out victorious when they faced Dynasty the second time, securing first place. At World Cup, Russian Legionís first game would be against the Naughty Dogs. The Dogs and Excessive were the only two teams in the World Cup pro division that Legion didnít beat at least once at the Northeast Open.
While the arrangement of fields was similar to the 2003 World Cup, growth of the trade show portion of the event spread over a larger area in 2004. The main compound to the West of the Wide World of Sports parking lot was the location for two of the tournamentís X-Ball and the NXL fields, and the bulk of the trade show Ė the booths from companies like DraXxus, DYE, National Paintball Supply, Smart Parts, Generation E, PMI, JT, Worr Games, Custom Products and other companies bringing in large show trailers and semis. Smaller manufacturers, and dealers were placed in a narrow row of tents running the length of the three additional X-Ball fields that lined the grass area to the North of the parking lot. This arrangement created a walkway for spectators between the booths and the netted field boundary.
X-Ball games started Tuesday morning on five fields, Division 3 teams kicking off the action. Twenty-four teams making up the division dominated the fields during the start of the day, with the first of the twenty-two Division 2 teams and fourteen Division 1 teams beginning their first round in the afternoon.
At the same time Divisions 1 and 2 were starting, fourteen five man teams made up of Walt Disney World employees took part in the Disney VPOC open. Department vice presidents led teams from groups with names like EPCOT, Sales and Recreation, and Disney Entertainment. For most this was not only their first tournament, but also their first time to play paintball.
Also concurrent to divisional X-Ball was the start of the NXL quarterfinals. The Los Angeles Ironmen had beaten San Diego Legacy in the qualifying round, so they faced the Oakland Assassins in the first quarterfinal game. That match up went to Oakland 14 to 4. Detroit Strange then defeated Baltimore Trauma 15 to 4. The following game between Miami and Philadelphia went to the Philly Americans 14 to 8. At the end of the day Chicago Aftershock defeated New York Xtreme 11 to 8.
Wednesday morning divisional X-Ball continued, and the pro division teams played their first games in the mid morning. The first of those match ups was between Infamous and Excessive. That game went to Infamous 12 to 3. The next pro game was between Naughty Dogs, Inc., and Russian Legion. At the sound of the first horn, Russian Legion came out strong and earned a relatively fast point against the Dogs. After a couple more points they met more resistance, and the next point was taken from them, also very quickly by the Naughty Dogs. With a growing crowd of loudly cheering spectators the game progressed until the clock ran out, and Russian Legion had the win with a score of 12 to 8.
On the NXL field Philly and Miami faced off in their second game. The NXL format plays the final rounds as best of three matches. Philly defeated Miami 12 to 9, meaning Philly would advance. New York and Chicago had a close game at 10 to 9, showing how closely matched these competitors were. The win went to New York, so the two teams would face each other again for a third, deciding game. Oakland posted a 15 to 7 victory over Los Angeles, to move on into the semifinals. Detroit earned a single point win over Baltimore, which was surprising to many, considering Baltimoreís regular season record as the Eastern Conference champion. Detroit Strange earned themselves a position in the semifinals.
On Thursday morning the X-Ball teams were joined on site by the 64 teams competing in the 10-man preliminary rounds. In seasons past, the 10 man competition was considered the big show, but it has since taken a back seat to the popularity of the X-Ball game format. Even with the decline in size, Paintball Sports Promotions continued to offer 10 man competition at all of its events through the 2004 season, especially at the World Cup where its draw would be the largest.
The NXL had only a single game scheduled for Thursday afternoon. Because the morning games were unnecessary (the two other match-ups ended in two wins in a row) Chicago Aftershock versus New York Xtreme was bumped up earlier in the schedule. That game saw Shock pouring on the aggression for a 13 to 4 win. With two wins out of the three games, Chicago advanced to the semifinal round. Semifinal rounds had Detroit defeating Oakland 11 to 10 the first time the teams met, but losing their second game 5 to 19. Philly beat Chicago by 3 points at 13 to 10, and also lost their second game 8 to 9. This put both of the semi-final face-offs tied one game to one, meaning they would have to progress to a third game each.
Divisional X-Ball games continued to whittle down the fields of competitors through their double elimination format. The pro division saw decisive moves as Dynasty defeated Infamous 13 to 5. Russian Legion edged out Avalanche with a 2 point lead at 9 to 7.
Yet one more division started up on Thursday - collegiate teams. Teams representing universities across the US converged at World Cup for the National Collegiate Paintball Association's World Cup X-Ball competition. The NCPA's tournament year runs with the academic calendar, so while teams in the PSP are ending a season, that of the NCPA are just starting. Purdue opened up the tournament with a 10 to 6 win over Oklahoma State. This was followed by an Illinois victory against Iowa State 9 to 8. Arizona State fell to Oklahoma State 8 to 6.
The third NXL game between Oakland Assassins and Detroit Strange was won by Strange 11 to 8. From a low rank in the regular season Strange beat out the league's top ranked team for a place in the finals. Who they would play depended on the outcome of the Chicago/Philly third match.
Back on the college field Purdue rolled Iowa State 16 to 2, and Illinois fell to Arizona 7 to 10. Oklahoma defeated Iowa 14 to 4. Arizona beat Purdue 9 to 8 and Illinois came out on top over Oklahoma 10 to 5.
The big divisional X-Ball game for Friday was in the pro division, between Dynasty and Russian Legion. As it did in the Northeast Open, that game went to Dynasty. It had a score of 11 to 7. Meanwhile, Infamous defeated Avalanche 8 to 5. This meant that Infamous would face Russian Legion on Saturday, and the winner would go on to face Dynasty in the finals game. The X-Ball referees came from various locations, and many came over to the US from the United Kingdom. The UK refs especially performed with skill, dedication, and a grand sense of humor.
Hoganís Alley Factory Team defeated the Outlaws 12 to 6. Team Ultimate beat PBFanatics Twisted Revolution 10 to 3. This put Ultimate against Hoganís. Hoganís Alley took that game and the right to play in the finals game, by one point Ė 9 to 8. On the other side of brackets, Docís Raiders defeated last yearís 10 man champions Mommaís Boys 9 to 5. This matched Docs against Team Ultimate. The winner would go on to face Hoganís Alley Factory Team for first place.
Division 2ís semifinal games were even closer. Diesel edged out Rock-It Kids by one point, 6 to 5. This pitted the Kids up against Team Xtreme, which had just defeated Team No Name 12 to 4.
In Division 3, X-Factor posted a 12 to 4 win over Hudson Valley X-Treme to get into the finals game. Meanwhile on the single loss bracket, Voltage took down Disaster 9 to 4. This pitted Voltage against Hudson Valley. Hudson didnít make their second chance at the finals, instead that game went to Voltage 9 to 5.
The third match between Chicago Aftershock and the Philadelphia Americans went to the Americans 12 to 3. This meant that the finals games would be between Detroit and Philly on Saturday. Their first game would be at 10:30 am and their second at 1:00 At 2:15 Aftershock would go up against the Assassins in a playoff game to determine third and fourth place. If Chicago and Philly were tied at a game each, their third match would begin at 3:30 pm.
All day Saturday, the cameras recording the NXL action for ESPN 2 were scheduled to be in operation. With a helicopter camera, 4 jibs, eleven "lipstick" micro cameras, even more fixed and handheld cameras for a total of 30, these would prove to be the most extensively recorded tournament paintball games ever held. In a Friday afternoon press conference Dick Clark and producer/director Bill Boyd Jr., discussed the upcoming program. ESPN 2's market penetration at 84 million homes was discussed, as well as a drive to produce a series even if ratings for the initial show are not high.
In another press conference later in the day, the launch of X-Ball Podium Series Paintballs was officially announced. Xballpaintball.com will serve as the web site for a new distributorship being created that will carry the new brand of paint from ProCaps, manufacturers of the Diablo and DraXxus brands.
The 10 man teams finished their preliminary games on Friday afternoon, and were ranked for advancement into the semifinals. The 36 rookie teams had been competing for 16 slots in the semifinals. Reflex emerged as leader of the pack, suffering only a single loss. Unknown Rage and Central Florida Paintball were close on their heels. For the Novice teams, it was the undefeated Enemy that ranked first out of the 8 teams advancing. The pro/am division, with only 5 teams competing, went straight to finals, avoiding the semis. Suffering two losses during the prelims, Addicted was the team cut, while Justice, Cartel, Team Rage, and Atomix Factory moved on, ranked accordingly.
In the NCPA competition Illinois defeated Purdue 8 to 7. Arizona State eclipsed Iowa State 7 to 4. Ranked by wins, Illinois and Arizona State were selected as the two finalists. In the finals match Illinois beat Arizona State 9 to 5 ranking first and second place.
Ten man semifinals trimmed down the competitors to four in each division for the finals. The rookies, with 16 teams sent the top team from each division. The teams were ranked with Team Ultra at the top, followed by TCK, Aballardes PR, and Cartel Kidz. Cartel Kidz had tied with Team Aggressive at 201 points, but were able to advance to the finals because they beat Aggressive 94 to 12 in their last semifinal game.
For the novices, with only 8 semifinalists, it was the top two teams in each division that were able to go on to the finals. PBX Factory was the leader followed by Derange, Tsunami and Dominion V3.
In the 10 man finals Cartel Kidz burned through the rookie division undefeated to grab first place. TCK finished second with a single loss followed by Aballardes PR and Team Ultra. It was Derange that finished in first place for the novices, although they lost their first finals game to second place Tsunami. Dominion V3 and PBX Factory finished in third and fourth places, respectively. Justice took first place in the pro/am, edging out Cartel by a mere two points. Cartel ranked second, Atomix Factory third, and Team Rage fourth.
Cartel Kidz finish marked a sweep of the series, winning first place in every event of the series - a nearly impossible feat putting them in the good company of teams like Trauma. Enemy took home the series title for the novice teams, taking first at two tournaments. In the pro/am the title of champion was bestowed upon Justice with their record of two first place and two second place finishes.
In Division 3ís finals game X-Factor defeated Voltage 9 to 7, taking first place. Diesel beat Rock-It kids 8 to 5, taking home first place for Division 2. In Division one, it was Hogan's Alley Factory Team that beat out Team Ultimate 9 to 5 for the win. The pro division culminated with Dynasty playing Russian Legion. The game ended 10 to 6 in favor of Dynasty.
On the NXL field, the planned Saturday playoff game was canceled. Oakland did not face Chicago for 3rd and 4th place. What did take place was the finals series games between Detroit Strange and the Philly Americans. The first of those games was won by Philly with a score of 9 to 7. The second also went to Philly 11 to 3, making them the NXL champions two years running.
With the last games played, the PSP
2004 season was officially over. Next to come will be the appearance
of the NXL finals game on ESPN 2, and off-season planning for 2005's events.