2022 NXL Windy City Major Recap

Remember when you were much younger and you were asked to do something by a parent or an authority figure and did it well? Or maybe you showed responsibility/initiative, and did your job/chores without being asked? Most of us were “rewarded”, right?  Or maybe you just wouldn’t get your butt handed to you. Either way, you were basically being taught that, if you did your job and did it well, you would see some sort of return.

Chicago was a little like that.

We know we need to perform well each and every event. I’m a firm believer in that success in this sport is not all predicated on talent as much as it is about team trust, cohesion, culture, reliability, and consistency, topped with necessary improvement. If a team has no ego and understands what it needs to do to improve, they will improve. And improvement will lead to reaching goals. And with each goal reached, you will eventually get to the point where you are winning.

We were not happy with our performance in Philly. We knew Chicago was going to be a make-or-break event for us.

As usual, we would face some difficulties, but then, who doesn’t?  We would head to this event without Mike Brown, who had life events to address. Justin Bailey would also have a life event that would keep him from being with the team the first layout weekend. Aaron Pate would injure himself during the second practice.  We would face bad weather the second layout weekend and I couldn’t nab a pro team to scrimmage either weekend.  Luckily, our good friends on Austin Notorious (ranked 3rd in Semi-Pro) came through and not only gave us some excellent looks but really opened our eyes to some aspects of our game!  (They took 2nd in Chicago!  Proud and happy for them. Ryan Gray is leading those boys incredibly well).

New Orleans Hurricanes and Austin Notorious at LA Xtreme Paintball in Slidell, LA

Coming into this event, I felt confident our approach to the layout would not only work but was, for all intents and purposes, the right way to play the field (at least for the Canes).  However, my resolve would be tested early Friday morning.  We drew the dreaded afternoon bracket (I prefer morning games) but the one advantage is, you get to see how teams are playing the field.  It seemed in those first few sets everyone was pushing the snake… hard. We pushed the snake too but not nearly like everyone else. I was genuinely surprised since, during our practices, our kill ratio for that runner was a high percentage. I thought surely everyone else was having a similar experience and would weigh it. That being said, we decided to stick with the game plan.

Our approach to the field is what military personnel would call a “flying wedge”. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it was a formation used in early warfare, usually with cavalry against infantry.  Imagine cavalry in the formation of a giant triangle charging at your squared formation of infantry (phalanx).  The concept was to penetrate the ranks and split the opposing force.  Now imagine the flying wedge cavalry with mortar fire…  In the case of the Canes, I trust my guys’ guns.  We drill our on the break shots religiously. So, that was the idea. We wanted to establish up the center, turn the opponents’ guns inside, make them contend with us there, then expand outside, bully a single gun, and then take more ground.  But it would require discipline, communication, and solid guns with a good eye for the read.  Simple, right?

ZEN NOTE – to those of you (and there were several) who sent me questions asking why we didn’t attack the snake more often… we did.  And we didn’t.  Calls were made based off statistical analysis and probability of what the opponent was showing as well as our assets.  We had contingencies for when our opponent made the snake as “safety valves”.  They worked.

Out of all the layouts this year, I felt this was one was ours.  A “hybrid” traditional that would allow us to really leverage all our weapons. And for the most part, I was right.  But this would be no walk in the park.  We would be tested right out of the gate.  People keep telling me we won’t be taken seriously until we start beating the elite teams.  Myself and the Canes agree. Well… here was our chance.


VS Heat

I have been accused of not being the brightest guy at times but I’m no dummy.  I knew if we let Chad George take a breath anywhere near that snake, no matter our contingencies, we would have problems.  But I looked over at my man Aaron Smith and I think to myself…  when we shoot George and get Aaron in there… Johnny’s your uncle.  We keyed up on ole George early. But they keyed up on Aaron Smith too. Aaron is a warrior and understood he had one of the toughest spots to play this event. I am really pleased with his growth as a player. Keep an eye on this one.

Obviously running anywhere past the snake can on this field was a risk versus reward scenario.  So, we pushed it on point one to test guns.  Aaron doesn’t make it, George does.  But Stuart Ridgel does the patented “Stu Shuffle” and takes ole George off the board.  However, we lost some gunfights. Point to Heat.  Next point more of the same.  We went snake corner, their guns were good there too. It was at this point I realized they are playing the field similar to us.  And we always train how to beat our own game plans.  They were up 2-0.  They were going to dig in on this field, roll their guns, and let us try and kill ourselves.  We had other plans.  Small bumps with tiny edges. Bully a gun.  Push. And use a guy named Jacob Searight.

We finally shot George.  But we allowed our tandem line to get too long on D side.  Dizon did us a favor though and drew the major.  The game was tied and we were on the power play as Heat would be playing down.  We figured they would take one of the towers early (probably snake side) and shoot for it.  It payed off (happened to be George). 3-2 us when they conceded the point.

The next break was a blood bath.  We shot two and they shot two. Then Tyler Harmon had a Tyler Harmon moment. Tied again at 3-3.  Next point of what would be the end of regulation, both teams did the exact same breakout.  However, Heat established the center first.  This concerned me because they were in position to push in the last 60.  We traded punches, guys held and time expired.

Headed into overtime, we were feeling pretty good.  If it bleeds, we can kill it, and that was our thought headed into that last point.  The pressure was on them so we knew they would go pocket thinking if they can get 5 out alive, they win “on paper” as Matty would say.  But we haven’t read that book yet (heck, we can’t even read).  We decided to push Britt Simpson D side with heavy guns and it paid off.  We got out wide snake side as the point developed after establishing a strong center.  Aaron Pate made a wicked snap on Tyler Harmon, then smoked Ryan Smith and then Ronnie Dizon gets eaten.   Good win for what we had dubbed prior to the event, the revenge tour.

*ZEN NOTE – In the last point, I recall Federov making a gesture after shooting Stu (a kiss goodbye or something) and then I made the same gesture when we hit the buzzer.  I know… juvenile. Just because someone is disrespectful doesn’t mean I will be. I have to be a better example for my guys. 

VS Thunder

We had watched Thunder (when we could) play Uprising and noticed some tendencies. But I did not depend on the scouting as I knew they would adjust their game plan.  The key was going to be identifying the adjustment early… which we did.  It was a back and forth match.  I was particularly proud of my man Britt Simpson in this match as he earned himself a one on one coin in the 2nd point of the match to put us on the board. Three Hurricanes carry those coins now.

A good example of game planning from both teams was the 4th point of the match.  We missed our snake shot (it was going to happen) but we got our inside support kill and took big ground D side.  With snake hot, we went to our contingency plan, and it worked.  But Thunder was a scrappy team and there was still a lot of time on the clock.  For the 5th point, we shot their snake side runner again, but they made a good read, took ground, and established early in center and on D side (something we had been doing).  It paid off for them as they dropped Drew Bell early and picked up our counter through center.  But I felt they had just shown us their best effort.  Next point, we wanted to key up on the wides and the boys did a great job sweet spotting BOTH.  This is a good example of “permeating” the point, something we had discussed as a team.  With the amount of time left in the match, we didn’t have to be in a hurry, especially since we shot 2 and lost 1.  We were also in good field position compared to Thunder.  My guy’s maintained zone control, had a conversation on who has the ball and where we needed to punch.  We burned off just under 3 minutes here.  But then we got a little sloppy, let Thunder spread, and lost two gunfights we shouldn’t have.  Luckily, Thunder did us a favor and drew the red towards the end.  (Aaron Pate shot their center player who continued to shoot).

The next point was another bloodbath break for both teams.  Unfortunately, Thunder got the best of it with that late fill to the snake from home.  We had lost Stu who would have protected against that move.  Britt recognized that, with Stu gone, plan B was to flip the field and got on his horse D side.  But it wasn’t enough as Thunder’s player,I think it was Pat Gleason, got himself two and a buzzer.

It was now 4-3 in our favor with 4 minutes left.

*ZEN NOTE -I heard there was a comment made that we went defensive. That is inaccurate. The intent was not defense but to set up a push. The setup, much like snake on the break, has its risks and has to develop. This sometimes creates an issue getting offensive when you lose key components of the set up. Running into a zoned gun on purpose isn’t offense. It’s stupid.

Thunder made the snake corner on the next break. This was a good call but that also meant his support must come from one of 2 places.  We shot one of them.  The snake fill by Thunder was what slowed this point down.  We had the body advantage, but we had to leverage two of our own to contain snake.  Both Stu and Daniel knew the deal and adjusted accordingly.  Searight understood his role in this as well and pushed D side.  Pate saw the opportunity to reposition to support Searight.  Gleason got clever and took my Rook (Searight).  He got clever again and took Stu who had just positioned on 50 snake.  However, Aaron Pate dashed his dreams decisively.  Daniel Camp smoked the press from center leaving it a 2 on 1,  Pate and Daniel vs Thunder’s snake player.  At this point, I turned and began congratulating my guys in the pit for the good first day. Nothing against the Thunder player, I just knew the statistical outcome of that one with those two gunfighters in.

I would have liked that last point though…

VS Uprising

There was no doubt the other boys from Seattle had an axe to grind after our first meeting (and our first pro match ever) in Kissimmee.  They were showing a highly aggressive approach to the field, but we also noticed some tendencies that we could exploit.  The question was, again, what if any adjustment did they make?  We soon found out that, they didn’t really. 

The first point was gruesome.  There were so many yellow birds in the air… but Daniel Camp finally gave the Canes our first point win (something we struggled with this weekend was coming out strong and winning the first point each match) and gained his THIRD one on one coin.

More solid guns on the break next point. We shot 3.  The following point, we shot the snake again but lost Pate early.  Uprising beat us to the center but this was where their tendencies showed (no I will not share what they are…my secret).  My guys recognized it and acted accordingly making it 3-0.

The 4th point Uprising got the advantage early again.  We tried to take ground early D side but they caught us and we miss our shots.  We recognized the tendencies again but aren’t able to capitalize.  Justin Bailey did an excellent job of killing the clock in a 3 on 1, a minute twenty .  3-1 with just over 7 minutes left.

We decided to give Uprising a different look the next point.  I almost didn’t do it because of an injury Pate was nursing. But the guys are all warriors, and he told me he was fine and could do it.  I went with the gut and it paid off.  We knew Uprising would push center but with our new snake side presence, I knew it would cause them to swivel.  And they did.  Searight took advantage and got onto their side of the field… again.  But, again we let that tandem line get too long.  We had to settle for a trade.  But, Uprising’s tendency reared, we took advantage and Stu finished with a 3 pack.

The next point was a bit sloppy on our part.  Stu looked into a ball and Aaron Smith made the mistake of asking for a paint-check.  Minor on us.

We lost Stu early on the next point but take 3 of Uprising on the break with the help of a minor (it was on their dorito player).  Uprising conceded the point leaving approximately 3 minutes on the board down by 3.

We shot one on the break but lost Pate early again.  Though, once Searight got wide and Stu established in the center, it was simply a matter of time… literally. We knew if we won the point they would let time expire in an effort to maintain point margin.  Funny note and I don’t know if they show this on the webcast but as the guys are standing around watching the clock go down, Searight decided to shoot Stu in the foot… on purpose… But the joke was on Searight as I think the ref called Stu clean LOL

VS Red Legion

Goodness gracious.  The revenge tour almost came to a screeching halt with this one.  But the guys showed composure, discipline, belief, and a whole lot of grit. If there was ever a match to define the New Orleans Hurricanes, this would be it. We never quit.

I can sum this one up rather quickly.  The first point we just lost gun fights.  The next three points of this match, the Russians essentially took our game planning and just did it better than us.  That and we got penalties and they didn’t.  We were also trying one or two things differently since we had already made Sunday.  That whole plan went out the window quick though as things were getting out of hand.  This was the most penalized I think we have been in a match.  I told my guys, back to basics. The game plan was solid, the Legion was simply beating us to the punch.  If we quit getting penalties, we will win this match! That, and our guns on break had taken a dip for some reason.  Down 4 to 0 now but there was a BUNCH of time left in the match.  They went up 4-0 on us in Kissimmee and we brought it back to tie only to eventually lose.  But we are a completely different team from that first event. And this was the revenge tour…

The Heat/Thunder match put us in X-ball rather early which I felt was an advantage to us.  We already knew what we wanted to do and how to do it. 

That 5th point was the game changer.  They put in their 2nd line as if they felt the game was in the books.  But we didn’t get that memo (and remember, we can’t read anyway).  There was just under 10 minutes left after all.  We put one up on the board.  And that’s all we would need to steal the momentum.

It doesn’t go unnoticed that Sergei was playing tall over home on the previous breaks and then filtering to the center.  We decided to turn a gun on him and get the elimination.  Now, I am only guessing but perhaps they looked down on paper and figured their 5 best alive on the break beats us a larger percentage of the time.  We decided to start focusing on taking that snake side tower sooner which would “trap” the Russians and hopefully force them into the kill box.  We had seen them do what we called “double double” before, so we took center early and got a second point on the board.  Letting Berdnikov get out to the snake side was disappointing but we flipped the script D side.  Justin Bailey got to drop the hammer on Berdnikov as a bonus for our 2nd point.…

I did not anticipate them to continue with the double/double… but this is why I make the assumption in the paragraph above that they figured they would just need to get their best 5 out alive and kill clock.  I called a timeout to give my guys a bit of a breather and make sure we all knew the game plan and situation.  We knew that if they didn’t take that snake side tower early, they would most likely concede the gap between the doritos and that first small brick D side.  And if they didn’t take the first dorito looking inside,  that would allow us to take a line through the center undetected.

Strangely, the Legion came out with double/double again (meaning everything stated above could come to fruition).  So Stu took the center-line and got the kill but got caught.  We spread to snake corner drawing guns which allows Drew Bell to do Drew Bell stuff down the D side and trade.  That drew a gun and now Daniel fed the snake.  Daniel shot the last Russian but Aaron Pate decided to run through with the goon hand just to make sure and hit the buzzer with 1 second left. 

Goon hand Pate. Thanks to Trevorwillpb for the shot! Check him out on IG and FB

And this is why I am religious.

Even though we had just had an amazing point, emotions got a little high.  The Canes have several rules about pit control and we all started to break them… but just for a bit.  The disruption was over the 1 second point.  We needed that additional time to get my guys squared away but it almost put us over the edge… not really.  But it could have. That’s on me.  We finally get our decorum back with a little laughter and knew that, with the overtime point, we needed to get back to base play, didn’t get in too much of a hurry, and let the play develop the way we knew how. Once again, the pressure lay squarely on the Legion.

This was a crap shoot point.  Part of my job is to determine what I think the opponent may do.  I was torn here statistically.  Again, in my mind, they were looking at the “paper”… their 5 beats our 5… So we figured they would go safe with a Dorito 1, the two cans and home.  That or their double/double.  When they broke with double double, and we made it out 5 alive, I smiled ear to ear.  We shot one on the break and quickly dropped another…  slow steady grind until they were none and we were three.  Five unanswered points against the Russians in 9 minutes.  Incredible performance from my guys.

VS Heat (again)

This was a chess match.  Best way to describe it.  We made a couple of mental errors here and they ultimately cost us the match. But I think we gained a little respect…

Both teams lost a can on the first point.  Stu made a great center push but we died behind him leaving Pate in a 1 on 2 situation.  Heat struck first.  Heat followed that point up by shooting two of us on the break and we couldn’t generate anything.  2-0 Heat.  Obviously Heat was taking our approach and just executing it better.  Our guns came back into play on the 3rd point and we were back in it with 5 bodies alive.  2-1.

We both broke the exact same way on the 4th point and we struck first shooting Federov.  We also established a strong center with Stu and Pate early.  Monville attempted to wrap and paid for it allowing Stu to trade with Harmon in the Tower. Searight got the last kill and we were now tied.  The execution of the goals on that point were pretty darn near perfect.

Of course, this is where we end up shooting ourselves in the foot a bit metaphorically and literally. The guys decided to let the clock run down a bit (40 seconds if you only count standing at the box).  I was at the net with my arms open wondering what they were doing.  Then Searight decided to shoot himself in the foot…yes, on purpose and for a laugh. I did chuckle. The time loss would be one of a few mental errors that would haunt us later. 

The next point haunts me still too.  We shot two on the break but gave those bodies back with a penalty (top of the pod hit on a dive – it happens – these were our penalties all weekend. Pod or hopper hit penalties). We shot another but we then gave two more almost immediately in exchange.  Devolved into a 2 on 1 in about 30 seconds.  3-2 Heat.

We know we can win the match.  And it looked as if we were going to tie it up on the next point.  We lost a 4 on 3 instead.  But still lots of time on the clock. 4-2 Heat.

We struck first and got Monville then get a shot in on Federov.  However, we spent a little longer than normal filtering but I was okay with it since we were still well above 3 minutes.  Searight caught one but Daniel made it out snake way and we repositioned to close. Stu shot Tyler and the rest fall.  We are one point down with about 2:50 left in the match.

I felt all we needed to do was be a bit quicker with our secondaries.  Thing was, Heat knew that too.  As I watched the next break, it was if Todd and I both had the same conversation with our teams.  We lost two quickly but I am in the pit begging (not too loud of course) for a penalty on Sam.  We got it and it was now 3v3.

What unfolded over the next 2 minutes was… crazy.  Aaron Pate made a WICKED wrap and snap shot on Chad George in the snake at about 30 seconds.  Daniel Camp got on his horse and fed the snake and went to Heat’s side of the field.  He saw Federov who had re-positioned and applied pressure.  Pate cleared and wrapped putting a shot on the back of Ryan Smith’s head before Federov shot him… just as Daniel shot Fedorov.  If Searight had 2 more seconds, we would have hit that buzzer and taken it into overtime… again. Or maybe Ryan gets a major… the world will never know.

5th place for the event.  As I understand it, we are the first rookie pro team to ever go undefeated in prelims and have the first-place seed headed into Sunday.  Not a bad consolation prize, however, we felt that had we got past Heat, the revenge tour obviously would have continued and very well may have culminated in another first in PB history…

We have to take these mistakes (Coming out flat, tandem line getting too long, penalties, clock management, coach not arguing for a call, etc.) and learn from them.  Trust me, they are fresh on our brains.  But I have to say, I am incredibly pleased with how my guys carried themselves. Not just with the way they played, they played great… but they really kept their composure and a “can do” attitude all weekend. I know the goal of a coach/team is to put wins on the board. But the more I watch these men overcome obstacles, haters/doubters, life events, and still maintain a positive and good attitude while bringing their A-game, the more I feel like we are chalking up wins in the right column. We will be better for it.  See you at Cup.  Until then…

Be water my friends.

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