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Atlantic City NPPL
Man - High Velocity
Leg 4 of the NPPL season in the past has been looked on as the cast-off stepchild of the series. It was the Atlanta Open until Dave Youngblood and Renick Miller took over promotion of the event. It then moved to Portland Oregon, Boston Mass, and Nashville TN in the following years. Last year, one heavy criticism of the tournament was the lack of 5 man competition. For 2001, all events include 5 man competition, allowing 5 man teams to play the NPPL as a full series.
Another change for 2001 came with all NPPL events being produced by Paintball Sports Promotions. The venue relocated once again, this time to the Atlantic City Racetrack, just outside of Atlantic City, NJ. The track, which is used mostly for off-track betting in recent years, has been in search of new activities to make use of its land. Large grassy fields behind the stable grounds proved spacious enough for an NPPL event - with the possibility of using the grandstands and main track infield in future years. Netting and presentation of fields has been a major issue in the NPPL, ever since the lackluster 2000 season and heavy criticism of the Chicago Open and World Cup. In 2001, each event has made improvements over the previous, and Atlantic City is no exception.
Full, solidly installed netting surrounded the public access sides of all of the fields, which consist of Sup'Air and Ultimate Airball bunkers. Diablo's giant mouth bunker design which has been appearing in the Millennium Series had its NPPL debut. The Ultimate Airball tunnel arrangement of boomarang and mini sausage shapes also made its first appearance in the NPPL. Robert "Rosie" Rose of Ground Zero had been on site the week prior to the event overseeing netting and facilities support, while Dave "Opie" Thomas of Trauma and Ryan Williams of Aftershock laid out the fields.
Air fills, which seem to have been a problem at numerous NPPL events, especially Gettysburg were addressed with Paintball Sports Promotions' new air system. Four new Bauer compressors feed 10 player operated fill stations (8 4500 psi, 2 3000 psi). Each one of 5 fill tables is equipped with a pair of Bauer fill stations. There are no booster pumps in the system, which decreases heat issues (hot fills from a booster pump will drop in pressure as the tank cools) and the air hoses are secured mid-section, to the table, to minimize flailing if they get loose from the fill nipple. A single push-button actuates the fill station. Filling completes when the pre-set pressure is reached, and releasing the button vents the fill hose. While the 16 teams of the 5 man competition couldn't put a dent in the holding tanks' pressure, the true test of the new system would come mid-day Friday and Saturday during the peak of the 10 man.
Various tents dotted the staging areas. Large staging tents gave the teams room to prep their gear out of the full sun, while numerous staging tents from Diablo, and PMI were set up for sponsored teams. A main vendor's tent had room for assorted companies to display their wares, but few were set up on the first day of the 5 man. Crossfire had a display with an assortment of WDP Angels and a variety of compressed air systems to demonstrate how their regulators compare in providing high flow rate with minimal drop-off. Koncepts by Daddy Mack advertised their Hyperball style fields built on-site for field owners. Smart Parts showed their barrels, paintguns, air systems, and new jerseys and shirts. Their new dye sublimation printer allows them to custom print on fabric with the same quality as mass produced jerseys, but with custom designs in very small quantities. Freak Factory and Jacksonville Warriors (Am) Jerseys have stood out as examples. They have also begun producing soccer style shirts with vented panels using the same process. Diablo's tent compound surrounded their area next to their paint truck and was used for display, and E-Matrix support. PMI's truck had a tent in front for staging. TC Paintball's truck supplied TC paint. Bad Boyz Toyz had the full Shocktech product line, and DYE barrels in their booth, and National Paintball Supply North America's T2 trailer was set up and open with products from the 32 degrees line, as well as others carried by National.
The 5 man prelims ran smoothly and finished on schedule Wednesday despite a delayed start in the morning. The relatively small number of teams allowed the games to proceed at a relaxed pace. By the end of the day, the teams were winnowed down to 8 semifinalists. Brimstone Smoke lead the pack followed by Power Surge and High Velocity. In the semi-finals, the lead went to X-Static, followed by Power Surge, High Velocity and Brimstone Smoke. Velocity and Smoke took the wins in the first round of finals, while X-Static and Surge took the second round. X-Static and High Velocity won the remaining games putting High Velocity in first, X-Static in second, Brimstone Smoke in third, and Power Surge in fourth.
Avalanche, Dynasty, Tidewater and Warped Kids served as the 10 man refs, while 5 man included Thunderstruck, and some fill in refs from Centerflag.
The NPPL steering committee met before the 10 man started, and made some of its most positive forward movement to date. Following the recent resignation of league president Tom Cole, vice president Chuck Hendsch (Dynasty), who was voted in as president. Additionally, Glenn Forster (Dynasty) and Roddy MacDonald (All Americans) were added to the league Rules Committee. The steering committee is working on creating league bylaws, incorporating as a legal entity, and making certain appropriate trademarks regarding the league name are properly secured and protected. A planned feature of the new league structure will include a disciplinary committee to separate rule writing from enforcement as a stronger form of checks and balances. Hendsch expects incorporation to be completed before World Cup. These are important steps for the league. Ever since its corporation was dissolved by the state of New York, it has had no legal power, or true structure. NPPL players with input and ideas for ownership and bylaw details are encouraged to contact their representatives on the steering committee.
More vendors arrived in the main tent. Straight Shot displayed a variety of jerseys, including designs by Tac Pro. Crossfire Paintball Digest set up a booth with copies of their magazine available, and WDP needed several tables to display the latest in Angel accessories and provide tech support. Airgun Designs tech table was showing the new aluminum bodied E-Mags, and Tom Kaye joined the regular tech crew in providing repair and support work. Worr Games Products staffed a booth for tech support, as well.
The weather which went from sunny to overcast during the 5 man changed to a downpour on Thursday night. The good weather, with partly cloudy skies returned in time for dry fields during 10 man prelims on Friday with a few sunburns evident even in the morning.
During Friday's preliminary games, Ground Zero stood as the pro favorite, playing undefeated for the day. Aftershock, Ground Zero Gold and Bad Company finished the day each only having lost one game. In the amateur A bracket, Strange, Trauma and Addicted played undefeated, while Texas Storm and Naughty Dogs each took only one loss. Ravage and Hurricanes finished their amateur B games with no losses. Cobra Factory Team, Templars, Outta Control, Strange B, Gridlock and Static each dropped only one game. For Templars this was an additionally impressive performance as Atlantic City marked their first 10 man, and first NPPL tournament.
Through Friday and Saturday, the new air fill systems proved to be excellent. It was extremely rare to see any lines at the fill stations. At the peak of use, lines were one or two players long and moved quickly. Paintball Sports Promotions invested over $100,000 in the new system, plus rental of an industrial generator to drive the electric compressors, and the payoff has been tremendous added convenience to the players (if you've ever stood 20 minutes or more in line waiting for air at a tournament you will understand).
Two new rule changes went into effect at Atlantic City. The chronograph procedures planned in January were enacted - players would chronograph on to the field, and be spot-checked by referees using hand held Paintball Radarchron chronographs during the game. Players shooting hot would be eliminated. The immediacy factor of the new rule meant that wins and losses would not be decided after the game by chronograph penalty points. Also new were dead-box blinds. Eliminated players must go immediately to a dead-box which is behind their flag station and blocked from view of the field by a wall of banners. They must set their paintgun down in a separate box a few feet away. The reasoning for the new rule is that it prevents shooting or signaling from the dead-box (or accusations thereof) and with the eliminated players unable to watch the game they will be less likely to argue a call for a play in which they were not involved. Despite the benefits, some players, and even referees expressed their dislike of the new rule, as it prevents teammates from watching the game to learn from mistakes.
The 10 man preliminaries ended on schedule Saturday afternoon. Ground Zero ended up dropping their last game, but still finished with a narrow 2 point lead over Ground Zero Gold, at the top of the pro rankings. Bad Company ranked third, and Aftershock fourth. Bob Long's Ironmen and SC Ironmen both finished with 604 points. Bob's men were given the higher rank heading into semis based on scoresheet records of numbers of players eliminated. Fusion was pleased to be in the semi-finals, the first time since their restructuring.
Strange topped the Amateur A bracket by completing the prelims undefeated. Farside dropped two games, and ranked second, followed by the Naughty Dogs. It should be noted, that two of the Dog's players have been sidelined due to injury over the last month, affecting their lineup at tournaments. Trauma was the fourth ranked team heading into semis. Having started the season with good amateur players, and then benefiting with players picked up from the break-up of Image, Trauma is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Am As.
With more than 43 amateur B teams that bracket not only offered stiff competition, but is evidence of the influx of teams into NPPL 10 man competition. Static out of Central Florida topped the Am Bs with a single loss in their prelim games. Their last prelim game, against Aftershock was a very impressive win a comeback from a one on three situation at the end. Gridlock ranked second going into the semis, while Ravage, fresh from their first place 5 man win the week before at the Seattle Pan Am ranked third. All told, 16 Am B teams advanced to the semifinals, while 8 pros and 8 Am As went on.
The semi-finals narrowed the pros down to an old-school final four: All Americans, Ground Zero, Aftershock, and Ironmen (SC). Not only was the line-up exciting but so where the games, some of the most intense of the tournament. At the end of the first two rounds of games, Aftershock had a pair of wins, GZ and Ironmen each had a win and a loss, while the All As had suffered two losses. The All Americans then beat Ground Zero in their last game. This left the fist place position balanced on the outcome of Aftershock vs. Ironmen, which took place on the Ultimate Airball field. Shock only needed to make a handful of eliminations to secure enough points for first place. Both teams started out with a defensive game, getting to their bunkers, playing tight, and laying out paint. Several minutes in, the two teams became more aggressive, looking to take more of the field, but suffering losses in the process. First Aftershock had the advantage then it swung to Ironmen, and the field was literally emptied down to Ronnie Simpkins facing Matt Marshall - a back player against a back player. Marshall took a low bunker near the 50 on the right hand side, and shot Simpkins who tried to swing wide and get behind him. Marshall made the pull and the hang making the game a win for the Ironmen.
The flag points weren't enough to overcome Aftershock though, who came in first by a 14 point lead over the Ironmen. All Americans, winners from Chicago finished in third, followed by Ground Zero.
Amateur A semifinals knocked some good teams out of the running. Addicted, Bushwackers (with a mostly new roster), All Americans 2 and Freak Factory were culled in these games. The Amateur A finals showed just how evenly matched the leading Am A teams are right now. All four teams had a win and two losses, and only 31 points separated first place from fourth. Strange beat out Trauma for the top spot by a mere 5 points. They were followed by Naughty Dogs, and then Farside.
The Amateur B finals saw many more games by the sheer volume of the teams. There has been much discussion recently about when top Amateur A teams should move up to pro, but with the Am A attendance in Atlantic City barely larger than the pros, perhaps the real question is when are more of the Am B teams stepping up to A?
Outta Control lead the Bs into the finals, followed by Static, Nemesis and Turbulence, meaning half of the finalists were Florida teams. The benefits of year-round paintball weather were a topic of discussion at the score table. Nemesis, which has been coming together more solidly this year, finished in first place, followed immediately by Static. These two were followed by Outta Control and Turbulence.
With the completion of the Gambler's Open, the NPPL 2001 season is nearly at an end - the closing to be held in October at the World Cup in Kissimmee, Florida (just south of Orlando). World Cup is by far the largest event of the series, and having taken heavy criticism in 2000, many are looking forward to see how it will unfold when coupled with the advancements that Paintball Sports Promotions has made in the 2001 season. This year nearly all of last years concerns have been addressed. The new netting cables and poles being used at multiple events are some of the best seen anywhere. The new airfill system has performed beyond player expectations even when running at half-capacity as a test to see if it would handle the requirements of World Cup. The power that has been gained by the separate promoters joining together to from Paintball Sports Promotions, has meant that these shared resources and experiences benefit all of the tournaments in the series. While the "front men" for this tournament, Ed Poorman (Warped Sportz) and Richmond Italia (Diablo) were new to producing NPPL tournaments, with the support of their partners, Atlantic City drew some of the strongest praise from players of any NPPL tournament in recent years. At the same time, the NPPL steering committee has moved from simply voicing problems to actively creating solutions (and learning that sometimes the solutions are harder to reach than they first expected), a much needed step in bringing the league back to the structure with which it was designed - a player owned and controlled pro/am league.
Editor's Note: It
was previously reported on this page that Ground Zero's finish in Atlantic
City would lock them in as series champions. This appears to have
been in error - see NPPL rankings in the Tournament Secion when available.