On Sunday afternoon in Riverside, California, when 93 degrees felt cool and comfortable, Tampa Bay Damage defeated an excellent Edmonton Impact team in the Champions Division Finals, 7-2, and cemented their reputation as one of the best teams in the world. Headed into the Finals, Impact was undefeated and a slight favorite to win, but Damage took everything Edmonton had, and dictated the pace of the game. Even though they faltered in the prelims, going just 2-2 and getting upset by Trenton Topgun Union, Damage showed up when it counted: on Sunday.
Damage’s win at the West Coast Open marks the first time that team other than Heat or Dynasty has won a tournament since the 2012 Chicago Open (LA Infamous).
The MVP of the Finals, Jason Edwards, racked up 8 key kills against Impact, and was a dominant force out of the back center. All weekend long the measuring stick for success was off the break shooting. Teams went as their back center players went: Mishka led Heat all weekend, Berdnikov made it possible for Red Legion to go from the Challengers division to top-four in the Champions, and Dave Bains was the kill leader for 2nd place Impact. On Sunday afternoon, with the tournament on the line, Edwards consistently chopped up Impact’s snake side off the break, and then closed games masterfully up the center of the field. Edwards has been one of the best back players in the game for the last few seasons, and at the West Coast Open his play put Damage over the top for the win.
Though Edwards stood out, everyone on the Damage played a part. Ramzi El-Yousef was great on the snake side against Red Legion and a consistent killer out of the back all weekend long. Chad Busiere seemed to be everywhere at once—in the snake, up the middle, on the other teams end—and played a key role in Damage’s offensive attack. In the finals, Raney Stanzack came up with a critical 3-kill point that shifted the momentum in Damage’s favor, and they never allowed Impact to have it back. Daniel Holiday and Timothy Propst stepped up in big spots throughout the West Coast Open and Damage was finally able to put together a win after finishing in 2nd place at both Dallas and MAO.
Although Impact failed to keep up with Damage, their appearance in the Finals reasserts their status as a true threat in the Champions Division. Heading into the Finals, Impact was the only undefeated team, and had gotten great production out of their entire lineup, and stellar play from veteran Dave Bains—Impact, perhaps more than any other team, had been playing solid, team paintball. Unfortunately for Impact, Bains’ shooting off the break faltered Sunday afternoon; the big man racked up 16 kills in the semi-finals against Heat, but only 5 against Damage in the Finals. The fault cannot be placed simply on Bains’ back, as a couple penalties and sloppy play caused Impact to dig themselves a hole too deep to climb out of.
With their win, Damage shifts the paintball landscape dramatically heading into the final event of the year, the biggest tournament on earth, the World Cup. It is nearly impossible to pick a favorite for that event—the top teams in the Champions Division are all playing too well. The race is far from over.
Go to pspevents.com to sign your team up for the 2013 PSP World Cup!