Search

2022 NXL Sunshine State Major Recap : Dynasty wins, G.I. Sportz dominates X-Ball in a history first!


Article written in partnership with Iconic PB


The season opener of the National XBall League has come to an end, and the weekend was full of surprises as the world's best professional and amateur paintball teams kicked off the season. It was the event of new beginnings at the Sunshine State Major, which brought the inaugural event of the WNXL, plenty of surprises in the pro division, and the start of many heated battles in the amateur divisions.


The introduction of the NXL LIVE free webcast was one of the talking points of the event. The much anticipated live stream gave paintball fans an in-depth look into the WNXL and Semi-Pro division all weekend long, and was a big hit during the debut stream.


NXL LIVE Premier Field Webcast - Facebook.com/nxlpaintball


San Diego Dynasty once again endured, and put up their third pro event win in a row, and their fourth over the last six professional NXL events. The paintball world is potentially in the midst of another long run of dominance from the best team in the history of the sport behind MVP level play from Ryan Greenspan and Marcello Margott.


Through all of the excitement on the field, a historic moment occurred during the season opener. Providing some of the best paintballs in the world at the Sunshine State Major, GI Sportz has set a new bar in the modern NXL. Every single xball division, as well as the WNXL, was won by GI Sportz teams shooting GI 5 Star paintballs; an impressive feat by any measure.



Prelim battles excited


Photo by MCPhotography19 / NXL Media


Parity has been an issue in the professional division over the last decade of play. However, through the first two days of play in Kissimmee in the pro division, this was arguably the most level playing field we’ve ever seen. While classic powerhouse teams like Dynasty, Impact, and Heat all looked the part of a world class team, the younger teams of the NXL finally seem to be punching at the same weight class. Columbus LVL, San Diego Aftermath, and the MLKings all battled their way to a Sunday club ticket at this event and looked competitive while doing so.


Photo by MCPhotography19 / NXL Media


The first day of play was perhaps the most surprise filled day of the weekend. In the first bracket, Houston Heat, one of the favorites to win the event, started their weekend with a 3-4 loss against the new-look Seattle Thunder squad. The “Thunder-Bears” as fans are calling them, had a heart breaking weekend in which they followed a strong Heat win with three one point losses to miss Sunday. If a few points go differently, Thunder may have walked into Sunday undefeated. SD Aftermath also put in a strong, albeit tightly contested preliminary round, going 3-1 with their only loss through two days being a mercy-rule game vs. Heat. The MLKings took all their momentum from the 2021 World Cup right into the opener and made their second Sunday in a row at 2-2. This is a major step for this program as they push to become a top-tier franchise.


Photo by MCPhotography19 / NXL Media


Bracket two brought fans an answer to a question they all had; will Impact still be relevant after the majority of their roster departed from the team in the 2022 off season? Bart Yachimec had no doubts about his squad's tenacity, as the new core roster carried Impact to a 4-0 record after fighting off Red Legion and the rookie-year New Orleans Hurricanes to move to Sunday. Legion was the only other team to make it out of this bracket, and looked unbeatable until meeting Impact in their final match of the prelims. Axel Gaudin, a former Legion player, was key for Impact in the 5-4 victory in which he was too much to contain on the ladder-snake this layout provided. His size and athleticism made him a problem all weekend for teams across the pro division, and the best snake player in Europe will be a key contributor this year for Impact in the US.


In the third bracket of the pro division, LVL was a surging storm. They brought their same aggressive style of play to the 2022 season opener, but with a new element; discipline. They were stymied during the second half of last season from over-extending their ability to take the best spots on the field. In the opener, they displayed veteran-like bunker discipline and communication across the roster that should be scary for the rest of the NXL. This team will be tough to beat this season, just as they were tough to beat in Florida, posting a 4-0 record through the first two days. Close wins against the 2-2 Los Angeles Infamous squad and the 3-1 Tampa Bay Damage were assertive marks in a breakthrough event for LVL. Speaking of Infamous, Zack Patient is a problem; he has found a new gear of versatility this season and is rapidly putting himself in the conversation as a potential Snake Player of the Year. The Los Angeles Ironmen narrowly pulled out a 5-4 win over Sacramento DMG, but neither squad was able to look competitive against the rest of their bracket and missed Sunday. The Ironmen were missing top players Nick Slowiak and Chris Tregarthen and will need to quickly pull together to avoid a potential relegation fight this year.


This brings us to the “Bracket-of-Death”; the fourth bracket of the pro division provided arguably the best games of the event with all five teams being Sunday-ready programs. The only team in the bracket to escape with a 4-0 record, San Diego Dynasty, narrowly avoided close losses against NRG Elite and San Antonio X-Factor. In the most anticipated matchup of the prelims, they disassembled the newly formed Latin Saints 7-2 in a match that wasn’t even close. The Saints, however, still posted a 3-1 record in the prelims, one of the best starts for any new team in the modern NXL. They cruised to Sunday and Brandon Short had a breakout performance in his first event as a head coach in the pro division. Coach Short instituted a diverse and hard-to-scout game plan that kept teams guessing all weekend. XFactor and Revo struggled to overcome the Saints and Dynasty and both fell to 1-3 on the weekend, missing Sunday completely. They were both playing Sunday level paintball, but the rest of the bracket was just too good.


Photo by PbScout Photography / NXL Media


On the pro field, Sunday


Photo by MCPhotography19 / NXL Media


In the NXL, the word Sunday means so much; it means hope, it means a chance at glory, it means a chance to prove your worth. The Sunday playoff teams at the Sunshine State Major were a diverse field of veteran franchises and some of the division's youngest organizations.


The Wild Card round saw San Diego Aftermath take on the MLKings, who were in just their second ever Sunday playoff. Luis Betancourt and Connor Kelley put up a valiant effort against the Mike Hinman coached Aftermath roster, but the patient, defensive style of Aftermath combined with their newfound aggression from Mike Mesa and Joe Barrett was just too much to handle. This matchup particularly showed the benefit of having one of the most experienced coaches in the league, as Coach Hinman was able to constantly evolve the game plan to overcome the MLKings. On the other side of the wildcard round, the Latin Saints suffocated Los Angeles Infamous to easily cruise to a 7-3 victory behind the incredibly versatile play of Justin Rabackoff, who was playing at MVP levels all weekend long.


Photo by MCPhotography19 / NXL Media


The Quarter-Finals was a round of tightly contested matches where each one was decided by a single point. No one could have ever guessed the youthful LVL squad would be able to outlast the incredible depth and talent of the Red Legion roster, but they held on 5-4 behind Dany Schonauer in the snake. Aftermath and Houston Heat quickly turned into a back and forth slugfest, and when the dust settled, 15 total points had been played and San Diego Aftermath endured to move on to the semi-finals. The Latin Saints and San Diego Dynasty both felt in control of their matches throughout the quarters and both were able to move on. The atmosphere of the Saints matchup against Edmonton Impact was palpable and the ghosts of years past were present as Impact did their best to defeat a team formulated from their core roster of the last half decade.


In the semi-finals, the Latin Saints and Columbus LVL faced off for a chance to both make their first Pro NXL finals match. For a moment it felt as if LVL would be able to succeed in this lofty goal, but the experience of the Saints was just too much to handle. Again, Justin Rabackoff is critical this match with his ability to play the entire field and fill holes wherever they emerge. Dynasty and Aftermath came down to the final point, with one of the best moves of the event coming from Joe Barrett of Aftermath during this match. Barrett was able to use his pod to throw at the center brick and trick Ryan Greenspan into moving forward and throwing away his body as he was eliminated. Greenspan, however, had the final laugh, as Dynasty closed out the game behind their league-best defense 4-3.


Photos by PbScout Photography / NXL Media


Pro Finals : SAN DIEGO Dynasty vs. LATIN saints


The Finals matchup was a beautiful dichotomy of the professional division, the perfect battle of polar opposites for professional paintball supremacy. On one side of the field, San Diego Dynasty, the second longest tenured professional team in the sport, with more than 80 event wins, a modest budget, and 22 years of experience. On the other, the Latin Saints, the NXL’s newest professional team, expertly-built by Diego Santos, on the sport's best budget, with the purpose of winning right now.


The tension of the moment prior to the first horn was discernible; the NXL is going through a period where new franchises are waging their war on paintball's royal class of teams, all looking to take over the paintball world with their aggression and youth. While the Saints were in their debut event, they were no stranger to finals appearances, with core players like Justin Rabackoff, Alex Goldman, and Alex Rodriguez holding dozens of pro wins between them.


The horn sounded and Dynasty came out swinging, with Dalton Vanderbyl quickly punching into the Saints side of the field and causing chaos that helped Ryan Greenspan and Marcello Margott close the point in less than two minutes, 1-0 Dynasty. The Saints put a focus on Archie Montemayor the entire finals, and for the first two points, they were able to get him off the field almost immediately. The Saints began a wild push for the second point of finals and looked ready to tie the game, but Marcello Margott had other plans. With all the poise expected from the best player in the world, Margott fought off Justin Rabackoff and Kyle Spicka, taking nearly 5 minutes off the game clock to put Dynasty up 2-0.


Photo by MCPhotography19 / NXL Media


Point three of the finals was again a churning, grinding point in which both teams traded blows back and forth. Archie Montemayor made a huge move down the center to eliminate Alex Rodriguez off the field, breaking the Saints defense and opening the window for Dalton Vanderbyl and Marcello to push forward and put Dynasty up 3-0. The Blue Wall Dynasty defense again burns a ton of time off the clock, leaving the Saints with just over three minutes to try and mount a comeback.


Brandon Short put together a brilliant breakout for the fourth point, where the Saints just overwhelmed the Dynasty defense with big moves from Ceelos Cortez and Alex Rodrgiuez to win the point in under a minute; 3-1 Dynasty. However, San Diego responded with their classic, calm presence and chopped down the Saints' attack in less than 30 seconds to make the score 4-1. By this point the game was out of reach, and although the Saints put up an admirable final push, Dynasty never ceded the lead and won the game 5-2 to win the event.



Divisional Highlights

Photo by MCPhotography19 / NXL Media


SEMI-PRO X-BALL FINALS : PAINTBALLFIT.COM VS AUSTIN NOTORIOUS


The top amateur division in the world, Semi-Pro, was a battle of new blood, with PBFit, Austin Notorious, and Chicago Distortion all playing their first semi-pro event. For PBFit and Chicago Distortion, it was a return to divisional paintball as their vie to win back their pro spots long-lost to relegation. For Austin Notorious, they are right on pace for their goal of winning a pro spot, as they continue to climb the divisional ranks.


Event one in Kissimmee saw the division's previous top teams all struggle throughout the event, with previous top five finishers, Noobies, Blast Camp, and Hurricanes all missing out on a top five spot in this event. Call it early season nerves, or just a bad break, but the previous season's powerhouse semi-pro teams will be in an uphill battle the rest of the season to secure their pro spot against the division's new top teams.


Paintball Fit went 7-0 throughout the event, not losing a single match on their way to a semi-pro victory against the surging Austin Notorious. It took all weekend for someone to find the formula for beating the aggressive and experienced Notorious roster, but the pro pedigree of PbFit shined. It's hard to deny the level of poise and skill this roster has, and the division will be scrambling to find an answer to the disciplined style of paintball being played by PBFit. During a 5-2 rout in the finals, PBFit never gave Notorious a chance, becoming the first ever relegated pro team to immediately win their next event in semi-pro. The level of control in the center of the field from team captain Colt Luckau was the key factor for PBFit the entire event, and his discipline and gun skills are maybe the best in the semi-pro division.


DIVISION 2 X-BALL FINALS : NEW JERSEY LEVERAGE VS EAST COAST EFFECT


The matchup in Division 2 was a battle of the East Coast, with division staple, New Jersey Leverage taking on the newly formed East Coast Effect, which rostered players from the team TNB of previous seasons. Both programs came into the finals matchup at a perfect 6-0 record throughout the preliminaries and Sunday playoffs. Leverage was able to pull off close wins throughout Sunday, and the finals were no exception. Down two points with mere minutes left in their tournament lives, Leverage fought back and scored three straight points to close out Effect, and win the Division 2 crown. Chris Caputo played a crucial role in the comeback for Leverage and looks to be a pro-ready player.


Photo by MMPhotography / NXL Media


DIVISION 3 X-BALL FINALS : NEW YORK WRECKING CREW VS SEATTLE NINJAS


In Division 3, New York Wrecking Crew lived up to their reputation. Coached by one of the world's best players, Marcello Margott, this team had arguably the most dominant performance of any team in the divisional ranks. They went 7-0 to win the event, losing only four total points, and putting up five mercy rule victories in the process. This is an incredibly young roster and has the feel of a future professional roster if they can stay together. Teams will struggle this season in Division 3 to stop the complete style of play that New York brings through star attackers Tanner Tomassi, Colton Doll, and Ben Sloffer. The Seattle Ninjas just had no answer for them on the final field, and were overmatched from the first horn to the final buzzer.


Photo by MMPhotography / NXL Media


DIVISION 4 X-BALL FINALS : HOOTIES PAINTBALL VS TRIBE


In Division 4, Hooties Paintball took on Tribe in a close matchup that Hooties Paintball was able to win by just one point. Hooties has been a staple of the Division 4 field for a number of years and continues to post strong results through an ever-changing roster, as their core players Alex Boren, Michael Hayes, Michael Crum, and Josh Cornett steer the ship.


Photo by MMPhotography / NXL Media


DIVISION 5 X-BALL FINALS : PRALLSTARZ VS TIKI'S FACTORY REVOLUTION


Photo by MMPhotography / NXL Media



The Vendor area highlights


Photo by PBScout Photography / NXL Media


The venue and vendor area in Kissimmee, Florida has been a fan favorite for years, and typically brings one of the best trades shows in the paintball world. Featuring the newest gear and products from dozens of vendors across the globe, the vendor area and stands were packed throughout the weekend. One of the most popular stands at the event, GoJuice, brought fresh and healthy food options for players looking to fuel their bodies. Their nutrition focused and high-protein acai bowls were a huge hit and the lines were long all weekend.


GI Sportz also revealed their newest playing apparel, however that was not the only new gear on the Kissimmee grounds from GI Sportz. Rumors of a new loader were swirling around the venue with a few players claiming to have seen the loader being tested on the xball field. Could this be a new version of the LVL loader, or potentially a comeback for the Kore Outdoors owned Viewloader hopper line?



The 3 Biggest Moments of the Event


Photo by MCPhotography19 / NXL Media


Marcello Margott steals the momentum during clutch 1v2 in the Pro NXL Finals


Momentum is a critical element on the professional paintball field for success, the hidden energy can be quickly stolen and utilized to charge forward and take over any match. After going up 1-0 to start off the pro finals against the Latin Saints, Dynasty felt the pressure in point two after a surging Ceelos Cortez and Alex Rodriguez quickly made the game a 2v1, Kyle Spicka and Justin Rabackoff just had to close out one player to tie the match, the reigning 2021 Icon of the Year and Defensive Player of the year, Margott, had other plans. From the corner, the ultra-poised Margott quickly won a gun-fight against Rabackoff and then spent the next 4 minutes draining down the game clock while holding Kyle Spicka at bay. Low on paint, Marcello made a brilliant move down the snake to catch Spicka off guard and put Dynasty up by two points in maybe the biggest move of the event.




Photo by PbScout Photography / NXL Media


Dallas Vibe wins inaugural WNXL event


The debut event of the WNXL, the paintball world’s all-women professional league, was full of excitement and ran flawlessly all weekend long. Speaking of flawless, the Dallas Vibe squad was electric all weekend long as they posted a perfect 6-0 match record as they charged to a finals victory over a tough Destiny squad (5-3). The first victory for Vibe was a historic moment in a sport that has historically been male-focused. The crucial roles that women have played in this sport are undeniable, and to finally see a full-fledged professional women’s division at the NXL was an exciting moment for the industry.



Columbus LVL goes the distance


Six months ago, I made an argument on why I believed the changing of the guard was coming in the NXL. However, no one could have imagined it was coming this quickly; teams like LVL, SD Aftermath, and the MLKings are for real, and ready for a seat at the table of the NXL’s elite. After notching a successful two event run to close out 2021, LVL did something no one expected at the 2022 season opener, they went the distance. Gone is the wild aggression-only mentality from last season, and a new level of discipline and poise has emerged on this young roster. Through elite levels of player in the snake from Dany Schonauer, clutch closing from Sam Silberg, and a surprisingly deep roster, LVL came just two points away from their first ever pro finals. The winds of change are blowing, and a third place finish for LVL is groundbreaking for the youthful push in the NXL pro division



Looking towards the next event


The National Xball Leagues first event of 2022 has finished, and fans and players of the game can still look forward to five more events this season, culminating at the World Cup in November. The next stop on the NXL circuit will be in Dallas, Texas at the Lone Star Open, one of the world’s premiere paintball regions, on April 29th - May 1st. Follow the @NXLPaintball social media pages for all the latest updates and rewatch all the NXL LIVE action from the premier field.





618 views0 comments