Article written in partnership with IconicPB
The concept of an open event is not a novel idea to the National Xball League. However, for the first time since the open format introduction at the start of the 2021 season, the field of professional teams participating is massively expanded. Featuring 15 professional teams and more than 120 amateur teams, this will be one of the largest open events ever held, and the biggest in nearly 20 years.
The layout, or the way the air filled bunkers are set up, are a critical element that decides the strategy each team develops on the field. Typically the NXL releases this layout two weeks prior to the event; It gives participating teams time to practice and build their strategies and plays. For the Lone Star Open, the field layout is “blind” meaning that no team knows the layout until they arrive at the event to play. This can result in exciting and creative styles of play where the true level of every player's knowledge and poise is pushed to the brink.
Experience often dominates these blind layouts, but with the emergence of the leagues wildly aggressive younger organizations like Columbus LVL, the MLKings, or the New Orleans Hurricanes, blind layouts can provide a chance to surprise.
The Venue, one of the nations best facilities
The NXL Lone Star Open will be held this weekend, April 29th-May 1st, just outside the bustling metropolis of Dallas, Texas at one of the best paintball facilities in the World, Giant Party Sports. The park was built from scratch by the legendary Gio and Bear Degidio just over one year ago and encompasses one of the most immersive and well equipped airball facilities in all of paintball. With three fully turfed playing fields, hard surface pits, and full facilities, this location is a competitive paintball athlete's dream.
The father and sons owners are well known in the sport, as some of the most innovative and forward thinking field owners in the industry. Their ability to build elite playing facilities is undeniable, and it should provide a great permanent location for this event for years to come.
Pro Teams to Watch:
San Diego Dynasty Player to Watch: Alex Fraige
For more than 20 seasons, San Diego Dynasty has been the team to watch, and the 2022 season is no different. After opening the year with an authoritative win at the Sunshine State Major, they come into the Lonestar open looking to extend their winning streak to four events, and five total wins over the last seven events. Behind the stoic Blue Wall of Marcello Margott, Ryan Greenspan, and Yosh Rau, Dynasty has been nothing short of dominant. And, the continually dominant offensive lineup of 2021 Offensive Player of the Year Blake Yarber, Alex Fraige, Dalton Vanderbyl, and Archie Montemayor, makes this team the uncontested most talented roster in the World. They play a can’t miss style of paintball that excites and thrills any player or fan. Look for Alex Fraige to make a large impact on this event, as his experience and incredible counterpunch timing will thrive on a blind layout.
Columbus LVL Player to Watch: Dany Schonauer
When it comes to playing on a blind layout, perhaps the only skill that can go toe to toe with experience is pure, unbridled aggression on the pro field. The unfamiliar nature of the layout and needing to learn lanes and zones on the fly can lead to aggressive teams feasting on opponents, with a brashness that can be hard to contain. LVL fits that bill to a tee, with their ultra aggressive, in your face style led by star snake player, Dany Schonauer. However, we have seen a surprising development emerge in the Columbus camp, after they have refined and developed a strong level of discipline that was put on full display at the season opener. Not only are they aggressively and consistently taking the best spots on the field, they are showing the discipline needed to retain and hold those spots. Adding in the fan-favorite and ultra-versatile Carl Markowski to the attack further enriches the paintball IQ on this roster. Although he will not be playing this event, his presence at the LVL practices leading up to the event should make an impact.
Houston Heat: Player to Watch: Samuel Monville
Houston Heat, by their own standards of excellence over the last decade, has been impressive over the last season of play, never finishing outside of the Top Six and grabbing an event win last year at the Mid Atlantic Major. The synergy across their roster is impressive, with the core roster playing together for the majority of the last decade and stacked with veteran star players. Tyler Harmon and Konstantin Fedorov are undeniably some of the most individually skilled players in the world, and when combined with the athletic attack of Chad George, Ronnie Dizon, and the sudden emergence of Sam Monville in the center, this team is a threat to win the event. Sam Monville played more of a reserve role during the 2021 season, but his emergence as a middle threat for Heat adds a new dynamic to this roster we haven’t seen in quite some time. If Sam can continue the level of creative and assertive center presence we saw during the Sunshine State Major, Head Coach Todd Martinez will truly have high level weapons at every position on the field.
Team that Could Surprise:
San Diego Aftermath: Player to Watch: Frank Antetomaso
San Diego Aftermath played a complete event during the season opener, that is the most simple way to put it. They were able to play incredibly disciplined under the elite coaching of Mike Hinman. Mike Mesa and Frank Antetomaso have added a much needed level of aggression that is rapidly forming this franchise into one of the NXL’s best. Discipline is critical on a blind layout; players across the roster need to do their jobs and make good decisions on the fly without overextending. Aftermath is maybe one of the best teams in the league right now at doing their jobs with a high precision, and they may surprise the league with a potential win at the Lone Star Open. Frank Antetemaso is the player to watch; in hindsight, this is arguably the best signing of the offseason. Coach Mike Hinman pairing the smash and crash style of Antetomaso with veteran star Thomas Kim has been effective and is shaping up to be one of the better dorito side duos in all of paintball.
Divisional Teams to Watch:
Paintball Fit, Semi-Pro X-Ball:
In the semi-pro division, Paintball Fit out of Dallas Texas seems to be in a class of their own thus far. The pro-level caliber of skill across the roster combined with their years of experience playing together makes this team tough to overcome. Perhaps Texas state rival, Notorious can provide them a staunch challenge for the title, however with the highly talented Colt Luckau leading this roster, we may soon again see this roster back in the professional division by season's end.
New Jersey Leverage, Division 2 X-Ball:
New Jersey Leverage was an early season favorite to win the Division Two title this year, and after event one, it is becoming much more clear how dominant this team really is. With a core roster going back nearly a decade together, this team has a deep connection on the field and their poise is near unmatched in divisional paintball. Chris Caputo continues to shine for this roster as an aggressive player and his impact through the snake is critical to the success they have seen.
Tropic Thunder, Division 4 X-Ball:
Last season Tropic Thunder made a clean sweep of the Division 5 X-Ball season, winning an impressive four straight events. After making the jump to division four this season, they placed third at the opening event. With the addition of the talented Leverage reserve snake player, Michael Arway, this team has the makings of another incredible run this season. Look for Tropic Thunder to potentially win this event.
Vendor Spotlight: Planet eclipse
Providing some of the best paintball markers on earth for nearly 20 years is not a simple task. During the last two decades Planet Eclipse has focused on building markers known for their durability, simplicity of use, and precision manufacturing. This product line is also backed by the largest technical support team in the paintball industry to ensure players always have the support they need to keep their gear in top condition at events. Just a week ago, Planet Eclipse also debuted their newest markers, the Etha 3 electronic, tournament-ready marker and the much awaited E3M, a more refined and upgraded version of the best-selling Emek platform. The markers are already selling fast and available at retailers across the country. As Eclipse continues to be an industry-leader in marker innovation and development, players and fans can connect and follow Planet Eclipse on all major social media platforms to stay updated.
The Battle for Texas is Upon Us:
As players make their final preparations for the event this weekend, fans of the game can prepare to watch the action all weekend long on GoSports.com where the best live stream in paintball can be enjoyed. Watch as teams square off April 29th to May 1st at Giant Party Sports outside of Dallas, Texas as teams battle for the title of Lonestar State Open Champion.