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NXL Windy City Major Recap, Tampa Bay: Back to Back, PBFit: Best Divisional Team Ever?

Article written in partnership with Iconic Paintball, Quinn Nadu

Photo by Michael Candelaria Jr. (NXL Media | MCPhotography19)

One of the most critical events of the Major League of Paintball season has concluded, and the results could have massive implications on the season championship race heading into the Champions Cup. Going into the event, San Diego Dynasty boasted a massive lead in the Pro standings behind their two event wins to open the season. However, with Tampa Bay Damage taking the crown at the Windy City Major, their second overall win of the year has put them right behind Dynasty in the standings and they can steal the season at the World Cup.

Its feast or famine in the Major League of Paintball’s most elite division, and the relegation race has likely concluded with yet another 20th place finish from the Latin Saints in Chicago. While not completely eliminated, they have arguably the toughest path possible to avoid relegation heading into the World Cup and will need an impressive Sunday run to save their pro status.

On the cusp of arguably the greatest season in divisional paintball history, Paintball Fit once again won the semi pro division, their fourth straight, to continue to add to the gap in the season points race. Barring a major underperformance at the World Cup, they may very well be the next NXL professional program in 2024. With Blast Camp and the Noobies close behind, it should be a wild end to the season race with the double points awarded at the World Cup.

With over 200 teams and more than 2200 players in attendance, the Windy City Major tournament saw a year over year growth of 4%. The continued expansion of the league nationwide to more players than ever is largely thanks to the continued leadership and strategic direction from NXL President, Tom Cole.

Friday and Saturday on the Pro Field

Photo by Michael Candelaria Jr. (NXL Media | MCPhotography19)

As expected, Bracket A of the prelims was largely dominated by San Diego Dynasty with a perfect 4-0 record. NYX also continued their incredible season of growth with a 3-1 prelims performance and another top eight finish for the year. Notorious struggled to an 0-4 record and will need a strong performance at Cup to solidify their status in the pro division going into 2024.

Photo by Michael Candelaria Jr. (NXL Media | MCPhotography19)

San Antonio X-Factor was the only team to escape bracket B with greater than 2 wins on their way to a 4-0 record. The rest of the bracket was a back and forth battle of 2-2 teams with Revo, Impact, and NRG all fighting for critical margin points and a chance to move on to Sunday. It was Revo and Impact playing in the wild card round when the prelims ended and NRG narrowly missed their chance at a playoff spot due to their head to head losses to Revo and Impact.

Bracket C was expected to be one of the toughest brackets of the preliminary round and Damage answered the call with a 4-0 record that saw them narrowly beat the Hurricanes in their last game by a margin of one point. The Hurricanes earned a spot with a 3-1 record, and Diesel once again saw their superstar roster struggle to come out of the prelims. They may shockingly finish the season outside of the top ten after a year of underperformance without a deep run at the World Cup.

The final bracket of the pro prelims had Houston Heat rise to the top spot; Heat is having one of the best prelims of the pro season, posting a 13-3 record on the year. Red Legion attacked their way to a 3-1 record in their best event of the season thus far, and Los Angeles Infamous just squeezed into Sunday with a 2-2 record.

Sunday on the Pro Field

Photo by Michael Candelaria Jr. (NXL Media | MCPhotography19)

The Sunday playoffs kicked off with a prelims rematch in the wild card round of Revo vs. Impact. Veteran pros always say you never want to play the same team twice in one weekend, but Revo didn’t get the memo. After beating Impact 3-0 in the prelims, they once again sent Edmonton home with a close 3-2 victory highlighted by strong play from Benny Carroll. The other side of the wild card round saw continued success from the emerging NYX program. After barely squeezing into the playoff round, Infamous didn’t have an answer to the poised New York attack and Xtreme won the match by a score of 7-4 and would move on to play X-Factor in the Quarter-Finals.

Photo by Michael Candelaria Jr. (NXL Media | MCPhotography19)

The quarter-finals round was dominated by the NXL’s ruling class of franchises, as X-Factor, Dynasty, Heat, and Damage all moved on from their respective matchups. While Damage beat the Hurricanes 3-1, Dynasty secured a 4-2 victory over the Red Legion in a revenge win after getting knocked out last year by Red Legion in Chicago. Heat and X-Factor edged out wins in much closer matchups with San Antonio hanging on against NYX 3-2 and Heat knocking off Revo 3-2 in their match. When it comes to elite play this season, these four programs have been at the front of the pack and always seem to answer the call in the games biggest moments. This would be the first time this season that the top four teams in the standings would be the last four teams standing.

The Semi-Finals

Photo by Michael Candelaria Jr. (NXL Media | MCPhotography19)

The semi-finals round would feature two absolute, back and forth slugfests between the games best teams. Houston Heat would face off against long-time rival San Diego Dynasty to kick off the semi-finals, while Damage and X-Factor would clash for the other finals berth. Dynasty started off with a quick point to take the 1-0 lead in less than two minutes after Marcello Margott closed the point with a big run-through down the center of the field. Heat would answer with a point of their own after shooting two bodies off the break and quickly close the point to tie the score 1-1.

Photo by Michael Candelaria Jr. (NXL Media | MCPhotography19)

After a few back and forth points, the match would be broken open by Conner Kelley in the snake to push Heat ahead 5-3 with less than two minutes to play. Kelley got the starting knod during the playoffs and showed why he is one of the World’s best pros under 30 years old. However, it's not so easy to slay the Dragon, and an inspired push by Dynasty would move the score to 5-4 with just 35 seconds left to play. A chaotic start to the point would leave Tyler Harmon in a 1v1 against arguably the greatest player of all time, Ryan Greenspan. Harmon would force Greenspan into a trade out and earn his team a trip to the finals.

Photo by Michael Candelaria Jr. (NXL Media | MCPhotography19)

If one element was the key to Tampa Bay’s success in the Windy City, it had to be the hugely effective breakshooting from the back line. X-Factor struggled throughout their semi-finals match living early on in the game due to the huge amount of pressure exerted off the break from Jacob and Jason Edwards in the home and Raney Stanczak from the snake side door. With the score sitting at 2-0 after less than four minutes of play, X-Factor needed to answer; in the longest point of the round they chipped away at the back line after LJ Parrish pushed down the dorito side and made the score 2-1. However, Damage would win the next point behind Keith Brown’s masterful play in the snake and then burn off the clock and win the match 3-2 to move on to the finals to meet Houston.

The Pro Finals: HEAT VS DAMAGE

Photos by Michael Candelaria Jr. (NXL Media | MCPhotography19)

The finals matchup would mark the second time this season Houston Heat would play for an event win, and the third time fans would see Damage in the finals. On paper, it promised to be an exciting matchup of two of the most disciplined programs in the pro division; however, from the first horn, it was evident that Tampa Bay was destined to win their second straight pro event in 2023.

The first point opened with both teams dropping a body and after a big push down the snake by Conner Kelley, Heat was in the driver's seat. However, on an island in the doritos, Jacob Edwards would eliminate three players on Heat to close the point to go up 1-0 early on. A penalty on Ronnie Dizon in the second point would wipe out the entire dorito side for Heat and Damage would make the score 2-0 with just over nine minutes remaining.

Photo by Michael Candelaria Jr. (NXL Media | MCPhotography19)

Konstantin Fedorov would eliminate two players off the break for Heat to open the third point, but a quick answer from the Damage back line would wipe out the entire snake side for Heat and leave the game in a 3v3. Tyler Harmon made a great fill across the field to take the snake but Jacob Edwards snuck in a shot over the snake beam to eliminate Harmon. Down two bodies to three, Ronnie Dizon and Ryan Moorhead would push into the Damage back line and eliminate all three players to move the score to 2-1 Damage.

After burning off critical time, the next point would see the match grind down to a 1v1 against Ronnie Dizon and Jacob Edwards. Edwards made a wild move, streaking down the dorito side unbeknownst to Dizon and made a diving shot to win the point and push Damage ahead 3-1. One of the best defensive teams in the World, Damage would play the final point of the weekend locking down the Heat attack and run out the clock to earn their second straight event victory in a row.

Photo by Michael Candelaria Jr. (NXL Media | MCPhotography19)

Keith Brown played a critical role at the Windy City Major in the snake for Damage; his consistency throughout the weekend to constantly apply pressure and eliminate the best offensive players on the opposing team was a huge reason behind his event MVP. He has firmly put himself at the top of the chart for Snake Player of the Year and another strong performance at the World Cup would cement that status for 2023.

Photos by Michael Candelaria Jr. (NXL Media | MCPhotography19)

The WNXL Returns, Heroines Win!

Photo by Michael Candelaria Jr. (NXL Media | MCPhotography19)

The WNXL returned after their longest break of the season and once again featured the eight best pro teams in the country facing off in the most critical event of the season in the WNXL championship race. After a disappointing finals miss in the first event, the Heroines knew this was a must-win event to stay relevant in the season points race. They went a perfect 6-0 throughout the weekend to win the finals and tie Destiny for the overall lead in the season title race. However, the Cheetahs are also just one point out of first place and the World Cup should provide a stunning finish in a true winner-takes-all event for the WNXL Crown.

The Boston Heroines were the only prelims team to escape the opening round unscathed, as fellow playoff teams Destiny and Cheetahs both posted 3-1 records. The Femme Fatales secured the final playoff spot with a 2-2 record, but recorded losses against both the Heroines and Destiny in the prelims.

The playoffs opened with a matchup of the Heroines vs. Femme Fatales and gave Boston the chance for revenge after losing in the season opener against the Femme’s the last time they met. Led by legendary player, Tami Adamson, the Femme Fatales made a valiant effort, but the Heroines were simply too effective attacking down the field at all levels and overwhelmed the Femme’s 4-2 to move on to the finals.

On the other side of the playoffs, the event one champion Destiny would be tested against a surging Cheetahs program led by star player Lauren Weeks. The match was never close and the Cheetahs pulled ahead early to secure the win 3-1 and move on to face the Heroines in the WNXL finals.

WNXL Finals

Photos by Michael Candelaria Jr. (NXL Media | MCPhotography19)

Iconic’s WNXL Event MVP: Krista Titus

The finals for the WNXL had major implications on the season title race, with the winner of the match guaranteed to be vaulted into the division lead if they won. The entire match would be a nuanced, punch-for-punch game with neither team willing to make a mistake. A quick first point by the Heroines would be answered by the Cheetahs in the longest point of the finals after Lauren Weeks was left in a 1v1 against arguably the best gunfighter in the WNXL, Alexis Lazer. Weeks was able to put pressure on Lazer and make a move to clip her out and win the point, tying the game at 1-1. The Heroines were in strong position to close out the third point but let three minutes burn off the clock and the match went to overtime.

The overtime point started with a body dropping from each side off the break, but a strong move through the center by Krita Titus to lock off the Cheetahs attack helped close the game and secure the Heroines their first win of the season and third win in four events. Titus is our pick for the event MVP; an absolute ace off the break for the Heroines, she was critical in the center of the field closing games for Boston on their way to an event win.

The Divisional Fields

Photos by Michael Candelaria Jr. (NXL Media | MCPhotography19)

Semi-Pro Champion, Paintball Fit goes four straight

Iconic’s Semi-Pro Event MVP: Colt Luckau

For the fourth straight event this season, Paintball Fit met Blast Camp in the finals of the semi-pro division; for the fourth straight event this season, Paintball Fit beat Blast Camp in the finals of the semi-pro division. Utter dominance is the easy term to coin when talking about Paintball Fit in 2023. They are having arguably the greatest season for a divisional team in NXL history and they now have a strong lead in the division and the chance to secure a pro spot at the World Cup in just 6 weeks. Although Blast Camp and Noobies have mathematical shots at a path to the division crown, PaintballFit is in control behind their event MVP, Colt Luckau. Luckau was massive off the break for Fit and his leadership in the pit during some of their toughest matches of the season was the key to their fourth straight win.

Photo by Daniel Molineros

Division 2 Champion, Shut Up We’re Trying

Iconic’s D2 Event MVP: Brandon Allison, SUWT

Photo by Daniel Molineros

As some of the division's most elite teams, SUWT and New York Wrecking Crew are both familiar faces in the final round. SUWT would be in their third finals out of four events this year and Wrecking Crew would be in their second finals after winning the Lone Star Major earlier this year. Both teams would trade points to open the finals, but then SUWT took control through an aggressive attack on the snake side and eventually pushed the score to 5-2 to win the event. Brandon Allison has been making an impact all season for SUWT and the Windy City major in Division 2 saw him dominate the snake and is our pick for event MVP in D2.

Division 3 Champion, TPPCrew

Iconic’s D3 Event MVP: Carlos Santiago, TPPCrew

Photo by Daniel Molineros

The finals for Division 3 would see TPPCrew return to the finals for the third time this season. The 2023 leader of the division was looking for their second win of the year and got it with an authoritative win over MW Tribe, who was playing their first event of the season together. TPP applied tons of pressure throughout the finals and secured a 4-2 win over Tribe. They still hold a narrow 10 point lead in the season title race over GGFactory and multiple teams are within striking distance of the season title heading into Cup. Our pick for event MVP in D3 goes to Carlos Santiago of TPPCrew; poise is incredibly important in divisional paintball and Carlos was an anchor for TPP that would often fill into the snake side and stop the bleeding to clutch points for TPP.

Division 4 Champion, Jackpot

Iconic’s D4 Event MVP: Jake Leidy, Noobies

Photo by Daniel Molineros

The Division 4 X-Ball finals saw Jackpot out of San Antonio, Texas take on the Noobies. Throughout the finals Jackpot really played a balanced, team-first style of paintball and got contributions from all depths of the roster. Ernesto Vazquez had the best performance in the finals for Jackpot and was critical for them both across the back line and filling the snake on their way to a narrow 5-4 victory over the Noobies. It's rare that the event MVP comes from a non-winning team, but it's hard to ignore the impact Jake Leidy had throughout the weekend in the snake. He was a force for the Noobies and had a finals match in which he posted double digit eliminations from the snake in the close loss; he is our pick for event MVP in D4.

WORLD Cup Looms Large as Teams Look to Make History

In just under two months, the biggest paintball event in the world will take place in Kissimmee, Florida and more than 5,000 players across 600+ teams will all enter the World Cup with dreams of becoming a part of paintball history. With a prize purse value of over $150K, the biggest awards in paintball await the games most elite teams to pair with a coveted World Cup trophy. On November 12th, the books will once again close on the paintball season, freshly dotted with new champions and new heroes. You can rewatch all the action from the Windy City Major on and relive the biggest moments from Semi-Pro and the WNXL on the Major League of Paintball Youtube. Register to play the World Cup! Click the images below!


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