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Feel the Joy? Pro Teams Try to Catch Joy Division at the British Invitational, Event Preview


Photo by Jack Sparrow Productions


Written in partnership with Iconic Paintball, Quinn Nadu


The Major League of Paintball is hosting their second European major event of the season; a stacked field of pro and semi-pro teams from all over Europe are preparing to travel to one of the best fields in Britain, CPPS. After an authoritative win to open the season in the Netherlands, it’s once again time to Feel the Joy in European paintball. After more than a decade since the storied franchise has earned a professional win, the rebuilt Joy Division program is composed of some of the most talented young players in the continent. However, the rest of the pro field is closely behind Joy in the season title race, with Virst Factory, Breakout Spa, and the always dangerous Toulouse TonTons looking to snatch the title of the best team in Europe.


With three major events in the NXL EU season, the penultimate event of the year is perhaps the most critical in leveraging position for the season title race. Joy holds a 14 point lead over the second place Virst Factory, with the TonTons and Paris Camp Carnage close behind. Another win for Joy would put them in stout control of the division, but any sign of weakness going into Sunday could also spell disaster for the young franchise.


The 2023 season has also been highlighted by the reintegration of a season-long semi-pro division after two years of divisional uncertainty centered around COVID-19 shutdowns. However, with the pandemic in the rearview mirror, a strong Semi-Pro Division led by Scalp, ALA Warsaw, and the Indians is showing that divisional paintball is alive and well in the heart of Europe.



CPPS Offers One of the Best Fields in Europe


If there is one aspect of any paintball field that affects every single player, it is the playing surface of the facility; CPPS offer perhaps the best playing surfaces in the competitive paintball world. Nestled just outside of the idyllic rolling views of Birmingham, England, the ultra wide pits sit adjacent to perfectly flat, natural grass and turf playing fields. During a time where many venues have opted to switch to 100% artificial turf playing fields, CPPS has taken pride in their expertly maintained grass fields and players have taken notice.



Every NXL event features a new layout of strategically placed, inflatable barriers used by players to maneuver around the field and provide cover. The British Invitational layout exudes all elements of a classic, balanced layout; a ladder snake, progressive doritos, and a deadly center flanked by large bunkers that provide launching points for game-breaking moves.


Most teams will likely start the weekend favoring the snake side of the field to generate offense and control the field, however teams may struggle to consistently control the dorito lanes and top teams may utilize an island approach to that side of the field, betting on their most methodical player to find gaps in the opposing defense. Of course, the paint format, limiting players to four pods(600 paintballs), of the European circuit will help to promote game-breaking moves in the center of the field and push teams to take a more aggressive approach to the layout compared to the US NXL rules of unlimited paint.



Pro Teams to Watch


Photo by DK Pictures, Danny Knuit


Joy Division | Player to Watch: Harrison Frye


The current leader in the Pro Division, Joy Division was rebuilt in 2018 after a multi-season hiatus from the original founding members. They have patiently built a roster centered around talented, young attackers led by NXL Pro Harrison Frye of San Diego Dynasty, Victor Antonsson, and Fabian Berggren. Frye joined Joy at the start of the 2023 season and has perfectly complemented the roster with an injection of offense and aggression all over the field. Frye has been one of the best utility players in the pro division over the last few seasons and when paired with the highly dangerous Antonsson in the center of the field, they have driven Joy to the top of the division in 2023 thus far. Frye will likely get a heavy dose of action in the snake and be the player to watch for Joy as they look to stay on top.




Photo by DK Pictures, Danny Knuit


Virst Factory Lodz | Player to Watch: Jakub Bielski


Virst nearly played their way into a first place win in the Netherlands behind their war of attrition style in which they constantly flooded bodies down the field. Much of the credit of that style can be given to arguably one of the best reactive players in Europe, Jakub Bielski. His ability to anchor the back line of the field early in the game and communicate, along with his incredibly poised style when closing games was a big piece of their event one success. If they continue their aggressive pace, Virst will likely stay at the top of the pack and be the biggest threat to overtaking Joy Division in the season points race.



Photo by DK Pictures, Danny Knuit


Toulouse TonTons | Player to Watch: Axel Gaudin


One of the eternal elites of the European division, the TonTons have consistently had success in the pro division dating back more than 20 years. Their modern iteration of the program is led by the ultra-talented attacker, Axel Gaudin, who is arguably one of the best offensive players in paintball, both in Europe and the US NXL. His game-breaking moves off the break perfectly complement the high octane pace of the rest of the roster. Toulouse has perhaps some of the best zone control of the pro field and they do so as a primarily offensively driven team which tends to create a lot of chaos on the field. Look for Gaudin to make a massive impact in the snake, as he typically does in ladder snakes.



Semi-Pro Battle Leaves Pro Spot in the Balance


Photo by DK Pictures, Danny Knuit


Always a major storyline for the year, the battle in the Semi-Pro division is driven with a unified goal from all twenty teams in the field; win the season title and the pro franchise spot that comes with it. The relegation system of the European NXL matches that of the US NXL, the best semi-pro team moves up to pro, and the worst professional team is relegated to semi-pro for the following season.


Scalp currently sit atop of the division with a narrow four point lead in the title race after the first event, and just as it is in pro, a win at the British Invitational will be perhaps the catalyst that propels any semi-pro hopeful into the pro division. However, the top five teams have just a 14-point differential after the NXL Netherlands Invitational and teams like ALA Warsaw and the Indians are closely trailing Scalp for the title.


However, Scalp doesn't look willing to cede the race after hiring in talented US Pro George McClean from New York Xtreme to bolster their roster. McClean brings a high level of offensive to Scalp and arguably boosts them into position as the favorite to win the season title. Paired with the ultra-poised back-line hammer of Alexandre Le-Du, Scalp will be a force to contend with once again going into Britain.



WNXL Fights for Season Title and Invite to World Cup


Photo by DK Pictures, Danny Knuit


After the success of the WNXL US Women's Pro Division in 2022, the Major League of Paintball expanded the WNXL to Europe for a full season in 2023. Each year the NXL World Cup in Florida hosts the top ranking teams of Europe, South America, and the United States to compete for the Champions Cup. With the inclusion of a year long WNXL Division in Europe, the season title comes with a highly coveted invite to the World Cup.


After a stunning win at the Netherlands Invitational to open the season, it was Belladonna hailing from Belgium holding up the first place crown in their finals victory over Drakaina. Now with the division adding another team and focusing on growth throughout its inaugural season, the WNXL is becoming the proving ground for the best female athletes in Europe.


Photo by DK Pictures, Danny Knuit


Coming into the British Invitational, just seven points separates first and third place in the season rankings, and it is truly anyone's race in the battle to secure an invite to the World Cup. However, a back to back victory from Belladonna would create an 8+ point gap in the standings and could mathematically plant them as the season champion before they even play in the European Championships later this year.


The Penultimate Event in Europe Will Narrow the Race


In just days, more than 40 teams and nearly 500 players will land in Birmingham to all fight for first in the Pro, Semi-pro & Women's Divisions at the penultimate event of the NXL Europe season in the Major League of Paintball. The entire event can be watched live and free on the Major League Paintball Youtube channel (www.youtube.com/@majorleaguepaintball) from July 7th-July 9th or fans can watch in person at CPPS Paintball field. With the season title race at a critical juncture and a highly aggressive layout, the event is sure to be a heated battle all weekend long as Joy defends their position in the pro division, and Scalp looks to maintain their pace to win a pro spot. Follow @NXLEurope on social media to get all the updates and scores throughout the weekend!


www.nxlpaintball.com






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