The prelims of any tournament are often the calm before the storm as the competition ramps up significantly during the Sunday tournament. However, that does not mean you should simply ignore the first three days of play. Au contraire monsieur! There are battles that happen every game – the game within the game if you will – which make for compelling paintball that you need to be a witness to in order to get the complete story of a tournament! The prelims are where old rivalries are reignited; unknowns test their mettle; and those at the pinnacle of paintball sort out their next moves, hone their game for Sunday.
Of course, the prelims are difficult to consume all at one time due to the sheer volume of games presented. So, in this viewers guide you’ll find the best the prelims has to offer — think of it as a tapas platter of paintball.
These matchups are the creme de la creme; the hors d’oeuvre; the overture to the grand finale, a little slice of the best of the 2012 World Cup Preliminaries.
Omaha Vicious vs. Seattle Thunder
At the beginning of the year many thought that the big story of the season might have been the emergence of Seattle Thunder, who made a splash (quite literally) in their debut event. Although, from that point on, the season has been an uphill battle in which the rookie team has received a thorough “Welcome to Professional Paintball!” from the rest of the league. On the other side of this coin, Omaha Vicious has made strides in their play but has not yet put it all together. This is a must win game — the “easy” game of the schedule — for both teams, if either want to make it out of their bracket alive. You should be watching for this one to be closer than expected.
San Diego Dynasty vs. San Antonio X-Factor:
This is a dream matchup in my humble opinion. Both teams have been on the bubble all season, trading off between the number 6 and 7 position in the league series points. In fact, these two teams have the least parity between them than any other two teams in the league, with only an 8.18 point separation. In terms of individual player rankings, Dynasty ranks in at 52, and X-Factor at 66. However, where Dynasty has been shuffling the roster all season, X-Factor has been solid as a rock, with the exception of Jesse Stephens, and is the more stable program at the moment. Also, how will Rusty Glaze perform as the head coach? This game should be a seesaw battle that you wont want to miss.
Houston Heat vs. Edmonton Impact:
Other than having two excellent paintball teams slog it out, this game is of special interest due to the Heat/Impact connection with snake player Chad George (#57, Front; 30 PBA rank), who was an integral part of Impact’s success in the PSP last year. Also, a little talked about point is that Tim Montressor — formerly of the Philadelphia Americans — will be suiting up for Edmonton. Montressor is an incredibly vocal leader who plays excellent paintball in the spotlight, on either side of the field. Then when you add in what should be a spectacular dorito side battle between Konstantin Fedorov (#88, Front; 18 PBA rank), one of the most talented all-around players, and Ryan Moorehead, a player who has defined what it means to be a dorito player in the modern era: this game factors into being one of the most exciting of the tournament.
Did we mention that Montressor has been the snake side coach for Houston all season? Yeah…that could make this an extremely interesting game.
Los Angeles Ironmen vs. UpTon 187 cRew:
The last time these two teams met, upTon 187 cRew gave the most storied team in paintball a complete thumping. Final score, 7-2. Nothing seemed to be going right for the Ironmen that match, which has been the defining moment for the rookie team. 187 is an intriguing squad who has the talent to make Sunday, but their bracket has turned out to be brutal as they have to contend with Tampa Bay Damage, Edmonton Impact and San Diego Dynasty as well. Seeing as they have had success against the Ironmen before, it seems reasonable to say that this is the best matchup they have. From the Ironmen point of view, you cannot lose this match and you need to win in a big way in case the bracket comes down to points to see who moves onto Sunday, which seems highly likely given the level of competition presented on paper
Tampa Bay Damage vs. Sacramento XSV:
Welcome back to the league Sacramento! As part of your gift bag the PSP has given you a match against the most consistent team in paintball! A team who has a rather bitter history with your team! But seriously, Tampa Bay has established themselves as the team to beat in paintball due to their wildly consistent play. In a recent interview with Social Paintball, team manager Joey Blute threw out the stat that every game Damage has lost has been by one point and that in his view, the only team that can beat Tampa Bay is themselves. This game falls in the middle of the event for Tampa Bay and is XSV’s final of the prelims. Depending on previous results, it could be a fight to see who moves on, or a game played purely out of pride. Also, when you factor in the emotional side/history of these two teams to this match it seems that this is the most likely game for spectators to see some “extra curricular activities”.
Team Infamous vs. Moscow Red Legion:
Both teams are traditional powerhouses. Both are trying to redefine who they are. Both teams should have been bottom feeders of the league this season. Both have a legitimate shot to win World Cup. You’d be crazy to miss this match up, no matter what is happening in your life. This game should be electric, and again will come down to depth as it did in their previous matching in the Chicago finals. The starting line for the Red Legion is playing stellar paintball as all five guys are ranked in the PBA Top 10. However, the bench has an average player ranking of 96. Ouch. On the Infamous side of the ball, this game will boil down to two questions. 1. Can the entire team continue to play at high level without making any mental mistakes? 2. Can the team continue to shoot well off of the break? This has been the formula for Infamous’s success during the 2012 season and they will need to be running on all cylinders to survive this match.