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NPPL LAS VEGAS
First Place Pro - Tampa Bay Damage
With three tournaments under their belt for the season, the teams of the NPPL headed to Las Vegas, Nevada for the NPPL World Paintball Championships. Las Vegas has always been a premiere location for paintball tournaments, be they the pro/am games of the original NPPL, NPPL Inc., PSP, NPPL, GWS, Pan Am or UAPL 3-man series, the popularity of Las Vegas' casinos and its affordability as an airline destination have given Las Vegas based tournaments both notoriety and popularity.
Playing in Vegas isn't what it used to be. Gone are the days of driving over miles of unpaved roads and across desert washes to play on scrub fields where flour fine dust decimated HPA seals and entered every nook and cranny of a player's gear. Following the Pan Am's use of the venue, the PSP produced NPPL Las Vegas Open moved into town near the south end of the Las Vegas strip at the All American Sports Complex in 2002, a facility that later became home to the UAPL 3-man tournament series paintball show.
By 2003, the convenience of being in town near the hotels, and playing on all concept fields had sunk in, and the then separated PSP Events and NPPL, Inc. Las Vegas tournaments were held in a city park and UNLV practice field respectively.
The newest Incarnation of the USPL turned NPPL has pushed even further, locating its final tournament of the season in the heart of Las Vegas, on the grounds of a major hotel/casino right on the strip. While a tournament using 2 fields out of a series of 4 annual tournaments is not as robust as the 5 fields needed to hold the finale of 5-event series as was standard in paintball's earlier booming years, the NPPL's production of a solid event in a prime location is a sure sign that although tournament paintball is not as big as it once was, it still a strong and serious sport.
In the standard NPPL event format, the games in Las Vegas started on Friday with the preliminary rounds for the D2 and lower ranked teams playing both the NPPL Super 7 7-man format, and the traditional 5-man format. Also up at the tournament was an exhibition showing of the league's new S7 format. Friday's games saw some stand-out action with Capital Edge Hustlers playing undefeated in D2. The pump division also played the first half of their games on Friday, although the division only had 6 teams competing, it is an excellent nod to the roots of tournament paintball.
The six teams in the pump division were battling for 4 semifinal/final positions, so only the bottom two teams were eliminated at the end of the 8-game preliminary round. Fallen Legion and APC each had only a single win to their name at the end of the round and fell on the chopping block.
Twenty-two teams came out to compete in the Division IV 5-man competition. Here there was more on the line, as only the top 8 teams were able to advance. After 8 games, Paintball Addix edged out the Warbirds by 4 points as the last team to go on and play Sunday.
Division III 5-man competition had 7 teams competing, also for four slots, with the bottom three going home at the end of the round. 406's Finest led the division as they advanced.
Division III 7-man, being in the league's main format, and that format's entry skill level, not surprisingly had the heaviest competition. Twenty-six teams played their eight games, with their total scores being used to advance the top 16 teams to a sweet 16 round - the only division at the event large enough to support such a round.
Also playing 7-man Division II had 15 teams playing in their prelims. Stone Assassins was their leader, with only one loss out of their eight games.
Division I, as small as the pump division, only drew 6 teams, and Off In the Woods (a team named with a very old paintball tournament joke as players might ask who their team beat) led the division despite 5 losses in their 8 games.
The pro teams played in two separate divisions, affording more drama as the teams face fresh competition in the next round, and ensuring a larger number of pro games for spectators to watch. There Tampa Bay Damage led their division which knocked out Sacramento XSV and Indianapolis Mutiny. Oakland Blast was its division's leader while San Diego Dynasty, Chicago Legend and Vancouver Vendetta were knocked out.
On Sunday the Pump teams played their semifinals and finals. In NPPL style, the top four teams were ranked strongest against the weakest based on their previous round scores, the middle two teams would play each other. The winners of the semifinals then advanced to play each other best two out of three games for first and second place, while the semifinal losers would be matched in the finals to fight for 3rd and 4th. For the pump teams it came down to LA Hutmen beating Milwaukee Throwback twice in a row for first, while Top Gun FPL & Scrubs grabbed third and 3KD finished fourth.
In D-IV 5-man went to the elite 8 knock-out round where the teams were paired strongest against the weakest, best two out of three, losers go home. The four winners were re-ordered in the semifinals, then in the finals Max'd Kids beat Paintball Addix twice for third place, and Bag fell two times to division winners Tropix Hawaii Tradition.
The top four D-III 5-man teams went straight to their semis, and then their finals where Redux defeated Blacklist for third, and 406's finest beat and then fell to Vancity Synergy before winning their third game for a first place finish.
Moving up the ladder, D-III 7-man knocked out half of its teams with a Sweet 16 round, then another half with the Elite 8 round before moving into the semis and then the finals where Lotus went three games to beat Tsunami for third and Noobies defeated Warped Kids for first place.
In Division II 7-man, the Stoned Assassins could not hold their momentum against Impact Echo who knocked them out in the Elite 8 round. The four Elite 8 winners were reranked in the semis, and Impact Echo went on to beat Critical Wrecking Crew for third place, while Paradox lost their first game against Capital Edge Hustlers, but won the following two for first place.
The Division I 7-man teams played a quarterfinal round in which the top two teams went straight to semis, but the 3rd through 6th played a knock-out round before meeting the other two in the semifinals. After re-ranking in the semifinals, Rockstar Factory defeated HK Army back to back for third place, and Off in the Woods finished first by defeating Naughty Dogs Silver twice in a row.
The pro teams battled their way down to the final four - Edmonton Impact, Tampa Bay Damage. St. Louis Avalanche and Oakland Blast. In the semifinals Blast took Impact and Tampa Bay beat Avalanche. In the finals round, Impact defeated Avalanche twice in a row for third place, and Damage lost their first game to BLAST, but won the next two, for first place.
Another season has ended for the teams of the NPPL. Training and re-grouping in the off-season will lead to the start of the 2011 season in Huntington Beach.