Day one of the 2016 NCPA Nationals is in the book. It was all Class A action today with a lot of new mixed in with the old. Returning once again is the free live webcast featuring Matty Marshall, Todd Martinez, Lauren Kelly, and Kevin “Catfish” Arcilla. As far as I can tell the production crew is the same as the past few years so we can expect mostly the same quality of broadcast as before. New for the webcast this year is the use of YouTube livestreaming instead of the now all-but-defunct Paintball Access platform. Given that the webcast is free and would be uploaded to YouTube later anyway it makes sense to use YouTube as a well-known and reliable service.
As always the NCPA Nationals are in central Florida, but at a brand new venue for paintball. Austin-Tindall Regional Park is full of well-maintained turf suited for soccer by the looks of the rest of the park. So far the grass has held up to the rigors of slides and dives, but we’ll have to see what everything looks like at the end of play on Sunday.
The Class A competition this year is a bit slimmer, down from 20 teams last year to 15 this year. Not competing at Nationals this year is the Cal State University-Long Beach 49ers who were always expected to perform well. New to Class A this year are the Miami University Redhawks – of Oxford, Ohio to be clear. By the wild card rankings on top is the Texas AM Aggies, UCF Knights, and Drexel University Dragons. It seems the hype for the Aggies is earned by the scoreboard and by the play I witnessed today. A quick peek at the roster shows a fair bit of experience from several of the players, but I maintain my belief that all-star players can’t carry a team to the podium. Everyone has to contribute and needs to know they can count on the players on the box next to them. The Aggies team I saw play today was composed and communicated well with each other on and off the field. I won’t be surprised if they make their way to the finals this year.
A little further down the rankings, the Florida Atlantic University Owls are not to be discounted. They played a tough match to win 7-6 against the UConn Huskies and took a 1-7 loss against the Aggies. A 1-7 loss might not look that good at first glance, but going back to watch the game again on the webcast replay, it’s a lot closer of a story than what the scoreboard says. It’s the difference between being out played – where the game is close but one team more consistently wins the close points – and out classed – where one team unquestionably dominates another.
Tomorrow Class A competition continues on the webcast and Class AA begins on the other fields. Forty two teams are set to compete – down from fifty one. There are plenty of returning names and a couple fresh ones to my eyes. There are far too many teams about which I know too little and too many games to play for me to make any viable predictions. I’ll stick to rooting for my local friends on the Georgia State University Panthers team and sort through the damage at the end of the day to see what Sunday will hold in Class AA.