Written in partnership with Iconic Paintball | 2022
Photo by PaintballPhotography.com
After one of the most wild off-seasons we have ever seen, the opening event of the National Xball League is just a few days away and the Sunshine State Major should be a heated battle of the worlds best paintball teams. As professional players begin to land in Kissimmee, Florida for the first of six NXL events this season, they are preparing for a fast and aggressive field layout that may push even the best teams in the world to the brink.
Never before has there been such a deeply talented pool of teams in the NXL’s Professional division, and the level of parity across the league should provide some of the best paintball we’ve seen in a long time. Will the historically dominant programs like Dynasty, XFactor, or Heat continue to run the table, or will a hungry up-and-comer like LVL or the newly formed Saints take over the top of the league?
Photo by Bangarang Photography PDX
Paintball players from all over the country will be diverging on Kissimmee in the coming week with over 1,100 professional and amateur athletes competing in the first event. The venue has been lauded as one of the best locations in the country to play paintball, and the warm weather should make a great kick-off for the NXL season. Paintball’s roots run deep in the competitive hotbed of Florida and with on-site live coverage of the professional, WNXL, and semi-pro divisions, fans and players alike won’t miss one second of the action.
Top Teams to Watch on the Pro Field:
Photo by MCPhotography19
It should come as no surprise to any paintball fan that San Diego Dynasty is once again one of the favorite teams to win the season title this season. After winning two events in 2021, San Diego spent their offseason wisely. They stayed busy with an intense practice schedule, and they added one of the best players in the world, Archie Montemayor, to their roster. The incredible level of balance and depth on this team will make them particularly dangerous on the Sunshine Major layout, and behind 2021’s Icon of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year, Marcello Margott, this team appears to be charging up for another Dynastic run.
Photo by MCPhotography19
Player to Watch:
Archie Montemayor. Archie joins Dynasty again for the first time since 2010 and his flexibility to play any position gives Dynasty a lot of freedom in their gameplanning. He should make a huge impact and produce a ton of eliminations from all over the field while playing in front of the league's top defensive unit.
X-Factor, although lacking an event win in 2021, was one of the most consistently excellent teams over the last season. Although they lost star player Archie Montemayor, they were able to add an offensive superstar replacement in LJ Parrish during the offseason. It appears the reins of the team have now been passed to Demetrius Ninios, and as one of the most well rounded players in the league, this team may rapidly become the best offensive programs in the division. Behind the 2021 Snake Player of the Year, Billy Bernacchia, Dorito Player of the Year Finalist, Jesse Stephens, and the newly signed LJ Parrish, this offensive is ramping up to be elite.
Player to Watch: Jesse Stephens
Jesse has done everything right over the course of his career; he has built an arsenal of moves, become very disciplined in his style, and finally has the center stage as the top dorito attacker on XFactor. With the departure of Archie, we will finally be able to see Jesse truly unleashed and he is a must watch player at the first event.
During an offseason that saw more than 80 roster moves take place across the league, Houston Heat remained silent as always, and focused on continued refinement of their superstar talent they already have. Chemistry is critical in the sport of paintball and Heat is oozing with chemistry behind energetic and talented head coach, Todd Martinez. The snake side layout is playing like a 7-man layout of the old days, and Chad George should be able to cause a ton of damage in the ladder-style snake. With the full roster active and healthy, this team has something to prove in 2022, and they plan to do so by winning.
Player to Watch: Tyler Harmon
Tyler Harmon now has 3 events under his belt with Houston, after joining the roster mid-season last year. Harmon is arguably one of the best players in the World and incredibly disciplined in his play style; he just never makes mistakes and always pushes his opponents to the limit. Tyler gives Heat freedom on the field, and can shoulder large workloads and multiple jobs on the field which will free up the rest of Heat to charge full speed ahead.
Infamous is a scary team; plain and simple. For better or worse, they will always relentlessly charge down the field and push the tempo. Infamous has a style that always puts opponents in uncomfortable situations and forces them to react and modify their gameplans. This tends to provide Infamous tons of windows in the opposition's zones to attack and dominate. After coming just one point away from a season title in 2021, Infamous has a lot to prove, and this is the year they need to win an event and show the World they can go all the way.
Photo by PbScout Photography
Player to Watch: Harrison Frye
The enigmatic and talented young player has been a joy to watch on the field over the last few seasons. The 2021 season saw Harrison rise to become one of the top offensive players in the NXL and his versatility and ability to attack at all levels provides one of the most exciting shows in the paintball World. Expect Harrison to play all over the field on a balanced layout like this, and that sort of unpredictability should lead to huge plays and run-throughs for the skilled attacker.
Call it cliche, but Revo is this event's dark horse. That being said, 2022 is critical for Revo to prove they can be more than a Cinderella program each season. They need a win, and they need to show the paintball World they can go the distance. Revo lost multiple players in the offseason, but made one of the best signings of the offseason in Rob Velez. With a healthy Stephen Omara back at full strength, and Dorito Player of the Year Chris Schehr, Revo will surprise teams at event one. Their grit and determination has taken them this far, and they rarely fold under pressure. With the elite defensive gun of Henry Sentz, and a roster of versatile players, Revo will be exciting to watch.
Player to Watch: Stephen Omara
Stephen Omara had a bit of a rocky season in 2021 and dealt with some injuries throughout the year. He is still one of the game's most creative offensive players, and is maybe the world's best player when it comes to playing blind spots on the field. With a layout like this, Omara should be unleashed and will produce exciting plays all weekend long.
The experts picks for Pro:
Quinn Nadu, Iconic Paintball:
To Win the Event: San Diego Dynasty.
I have to go with Dynasty here. They are just too talented and deep to pick otherwise for the season's opening event. They have an incredibly tough bracket with Revo, X-Factor, NRG, and the newly formed Saints superteam, but with Offensive Player of the Year Blake Yarber, Icon of the Year Marcello Margott, and the rest of their incredibly talented roster, this team is deeper than anyone else. Look for Marcello to make an impact in the snake, and Ryan Greenspan to dominate the center.
Biggest upset in Prelims: The match that may be the biggest upset could be Revo vs. the Saints. Everyone is quickly crowning the Saints as the next great team, but chemistry is earned with time, not bought, and Revo is a well-tuned machine with a ton of poise. I imagine it will be one of the best battles of the prelims. Revo 6-4.
Matty Karpinski, WNXL/Semi-Pro lead commentator:
To Win the Event: Houston Heat.
With an aggressively played snake and D-side, Heat just has too many weapons to not be considered a top contender for this event. Tyler Harmons height over the wedges on the dorito side , Chad George’s experience in the snake, and Fedorov elite versatility as an attacker, will just be too much for most teams to handle.
Biggest upset in Prelims: LVL vs Ironmen.
With Columbus LVL showing up big-time in the back half of the 2021 season, they will be going full throttle on this layout against elite teams in their bracket. I see them being a Sunday team in this first event. The Ironmen are on a tough rebuild led by Nick Sloviak and coach Nikki McEvers after finishing 11th overall last year, and I think LVL will overwhelm them.
The WNXL debut:
Photo by Bangarang Photography PDX
The NXL season opener will also debut the WNXL, the Women’s professional paintball league. Fans of the game got a small teaser of the potential of this new division at the World Cup last year, where some of the most talented female paintball players in the World had an exhibition match that impressed paintball fans everywhere.
This new league will feature six professional teams that will all compete all year long for the coveted season championships and the right to claim the title as the best women’s paintball team in the World.
WNXL Players to Watch:
Photo by Bangarang Photography PDX
Brittney Vang, Dallas Vibe (above)
Brittney Vang brings a ton of aggression into the Vibe program. Fans got a sneak peek of the potential she brings at the World Cup last year, where she relentlessly punched down the snake and racked up eliminations during the Fire vs Ice exhibition match. Brittney is on the early watch list as a potential snake player of the year in the WNXL and should provide tons of big move potential on the field.
Jenn Fulk, The Heroines (above)
Jenn is incredibly patient and methodical in the way she plays the snake, and she brings a resume that makes her one of the most experienced players in the league. Poise is something that takes time to develop on the field and Jenn has a ton of it. She is calm in any situation and should be one of the top offensive players in the WNXL this season.
Rozy McCurley, The Heroines (above)
Rozy Mccurley is a player who instantly should be on everyone's list as a potential Player of the Year in the WNXL this season. She has an incredible level of experience in the game, and brings a ton of athleticism for the Heroines. Her husband, Brad Mccurley was one of the best players in the NXL during his time as a pro player and years of training with Brad will make Rozy incredibly effective on the field this season.
Divisional paintball teams to watch:
In 2021, the Noobies rapidly rose to the top of the semi-pro rankings and were in a heated battle to win the season title and pro spot until the very end. After narrowly missing their shot at a pro ranking, Noobies captain Andy Schoemaker spent the offseason retooling the roster after star attacker Damien Vazquez was signed to San Diego Dynasty. With the addition of veteran star, LJ Woodley for the first event, this team is arguably the most experienced team in the semi-pro division and should be a difficult task for any team to handle going into the first event.
Division 2: Philadelphia A's
Last season, led by Connor Gallagher and Jesse Vandeboe, the Philadelphia As were nothing short of dominant in division three. After winning the first event of 2021, they never finished outside of the top 5 the rest of the year. They spent their offseason gathering even more talent like Joe “Chops” Burdis, Matty Karpinski, and former-pro Kristian Woodmansee, and bumping up to division two. This team is built to win season titles and loaded with veteran talent. The championship goes through the Philly As this season in the NXL Division 2 field.
Division 3: NY Wrecking Crew
Few teams are able to build pro-style programs in the divisional ranks, but NY Wrecking Crew has put together a top-flight team led by their owner Robert Bertuglia. Their coach, top-level pro Marcello Margott, has helped refine this program into a well oiled machine. And, with talented young attackers in Ben Sloffer and Colton Doll, this team plays an incredibly disciplined, yet aggressive style on the field.
Division 4: Altitude Sickness
The Denver, Colorado squad had a great showing in Division 4 last year, and look to be returning with most of their core roster to vie for the 2022 season title. Although their roster is a bit older, they bring a ton of poise and solid decision making to this division and they should be a threat for the podium all season long after adding veteran player, James Anderson, who has some upper division experience.
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Team are ready to battle in Kissimmee
We are incredibly excited for the season opener event in Kissimmee, Florida to kick off in less than a week. You can catch all the live action from the pro fields on GoSports.com and live coverage from the WNXL and Semi-Pro fields on the NXL social media channels. Will 2022 be the year of young and aggressive teams taking hold of the pro division, or will the veteran elite continue to dominate the division? Find out this weekend at the NXL Sunshine State Major!