That’s all folks, the 2016 NCPA National Championships is over already. It’s been a great event all around. Though I’m sad that my favorite event of the year is over and I have to go back to the normal day-to-day, I’m going home a little more tan, a little more experienced in a new place I’ve never been, and I’ve got about seven thousands photos to edit and recall my time here in Orlando. Overall, I don’t think I could have asked for a better event besides cutting out the drizzle from time to time. Surprisingly the fields at Austin-Tindall Regional Park held up very well with the damp conditions and sliding players everywhere. The teams that made their way to Sunday clearly deserved it from the way they played all the way to finals.
It turns out I was close on my initial predictions for Class A. The University of Central Florida Knights toughed it out in two nail-biting matches against the University of Connecticut Huskies (8-7) and the Florida Atlantic University Owls (6-5). In the end the Texas A&M Aggies proved to be too much. The Aggies edged out the Knights in nearly every aspect of the game to win 8-1 and prove that they were indeed unstoppable. So it goes in the NCPA – sometimes there is a team that really comes to win and won’t be stopped by anyone, even a team that has made it to the top of the podium in the past. If you’re curious about how it all played out, the finals for Class A were broadcast live via YouTube and are available on the NCPAPaintball channel here.
Class AA had a bit of a strange start that left a couple teams going home after making out of the prelims, but not because they were beaten on the field. In previous years, the rules dictated that teams who placed in the top two positions of their bracket moved on to Sunday with the top 8 getting a bye into the Ocho-Finals. The 9th through 16th ranked teams (based on their position in their bracket) would play the 17th through 24th ranked teams chosen based on their overall wildcard ranking. However, this could result in a team that won three of their four prelims matches, be ranked the 12th wildcard overall, but because they placed third in their bracket they will not move on. I saw this exact situation happen to Georgia State University in 2013. After a confused call to the head of the NCPA to clear things up it was made clear that everything was done correctly. By the books the rules make sense, but when you’re a team that emerged from the prelims with a winning record and a high seed ranking only to be told you’re not moving on? That certainly smells fishy. I bring all of that up to explain that the rules were apparently changed so that the top three teams in each bracket would move on to the next round (with top 8 getting a bye) regardless of their overall seed ranking. As a result of this change, this year saw a team with an overall ranking of 26th and one ranked 27th move on to Sunday because they were third in their bracket. How is this a problem? It seems those two teams either checked APPA and thought their low rank meant they were out or figured with their less than stellar performance they wouldn’t move on anyway. Come Sunday morning, neither team was at the field. Despite every attempt to reach them and get them to the field to play, they were unreachable and the decision had to be made that the teams be disqualified.
Morning troubles aside, the remainder of the Class AA tournament went well. The skies were more sunny, the play more intense, and for the first time ever the Class AA finals would be played on the broadcast field and streamed live. My friends from Georgia State University played their best and brought themselves all the way to play for first. On the broadcast field against the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Pioneers the Panthers struggled. The Pioneers proved to the be the better team and took home the win. Still, I’m glad I got to see my local buddies get to play on the big boy field before a few of them have to graduate. If you want to watch the Class AA finals, both the first and second and the third and fourth matches are available on the NCPAPaintball channel here.
That’s all for the 2015-2016 NCPA season. The 2016-2017 will start up this fall, dates to be determined. I’m looking forward to photographing the National Championships again next year as well. Until then, my next even is the Minor League Paintball series event number two, conveniently located in the same place as the NCPA Nationals the very next weekend.