Now that the dust has settled on the first event, and I have somewhat caught up on my real life responsibilities, I wanted to get this written before I got too focused on Dallas. This will be a stream of thought so bear with me.
I will admit, the event was somewhat surreal. That first morning headed into the Uprising match seemed like any other paintball match. It was odd really… it didn’t feel any different, at least for me. We were there to play and do what we do. The only difference was there were people watching from the stands and there were cameras around. It actually all seemed “smaller” than I expected if that even makes sense. Don’t get me wrong. Been on the pro field plenty of times. But I don’t think we let the moment get to us. And that was good.
We wanted to set the pace in our first match. In other words, be first to key positions on the field. Something else I wanted to do is come out and show we can shift gears effectively. In order to do this, I decided to use two lines for this event. Some questioned my approach but I believe in each one of my guys. They each bring a strength and they all need to be tested. Yes, I believe in running the horses (who is performing best at that moment)… but leading up to this event, everyone showed me they were ready to play. So that’s what I did.
In that first match, the guys executed the game plans well and succeeded in setting that pace. Our lanes were good, our zone control was as good as it could get most points, our aggressiveness and counters were good. No, we were not perfect but that is understandable. The guys were playing their first pro match against a veteran pro team. We wanted to be first to the punch, get our guns up, control the zone, then get on the attack. We were a little sloppy that first point but Stuart Ridgel made a great read to finish it. Point 2 was solid execution from the guys. We knew Uprising would want to take ground that 3rd point as they hadn’t seen success in the pocket so we keyed up and shut it down with some good laning. Things got interesting on the 4th point. We wanted to stay on the gas but by that time Uprising had found a breath. However, the composure and communication from my guys was solid. When we clipped the d-side player, I knew we were going to take the point, at least from a position perspective. Unfortunately, the pucker factor kicked up when we lost Britt Simpson from D side but Justin Bailey made the read and traded with the center. This could have been played a hundred ways but I’ll take it. And of course, that left Aaron Pate in a one on one. Recognizing he needed to protect the buzzer, he did just that. Here’s something you may not know. When Pate went forward and shot Graham Arnold, he did so because he had no paint left. Big shout to my boy for winning a red/gold coin! Our second pucker factor moment was point 5 where we get a penalty. I thought Uprising was going to head to the corner and throw a guy under him. So we keyed up on that lane and got the wide kill. The penalty on us was thrown bang bang..like fast. Luckily, Drew Bell recognizes our situation and presses the issue. Great shift by the team to counter punch in a down body situation. The final point we continued to pour the gas but so did Uprising. Clutch play and zone control won the point though. Interestingly enough, we didn’t know it at the time, but we had just met all 4 goals we had set for this event.
The New Orleans Hurricanes had just won our first match in the Pro division against a seasoned team. But we all knew it wasn’t going to be that easy. We refocused and set our sights on Impact. We would get a chance to scout their one game before we stepped on the field with them.
The Impact match is where I, as a coach, made my first mistake and failed my team. I’ll get to that in a moment. We knew this was going to be a major test of our capabilities. You can say whatever you want at a moment like this to your guys; “Paint breaks on them just like anyone else” and “I don’t care what their jersey says, your jersey says New Orleans Hurricanes and that means you deserve to be here and you play YOUR game”. First point we let them be first and take ground. The second point Impact’s guns off the break were spot on and they closed immediately, essentially cutting us off from a spread. 3rd point was more of the same. 4th point what can you say… we are talking world class guns here from a top team in the sport and Axel was in our snake before we knew the down count. But here’s the thing… at no point did we consider ourselves out of the match. There was still a lot of time on that clock. And we now had a confirmed understanding of their approach. Don’t get me wrong – NO ONE wants to go down 4-0 against Impact. But we figured out how to take their game-plan away. We shifted some guns and found one hole. We dropped Zack Hill and Trevor Reasor got shot on the pack as he left his bunker to trade with my guy. Ref 04 wiped him off after the check. Drew was able to turn the field though. 4-1 now.
I remember thinking after that point …
We knew heading into this event, it was a chaotic field. You can build off that chaos or let it destroy you. Obviously we want to build off of it and go forward. We traded with several bodies in the next point and came out ahead. Matt Hamilton made the snake and did damage which is what we needed. It’s now 4-2. We knew they wanted snake corner and we knew they would go short D side in an effort to bleed the clock counting on gun skills. So we put the guns on the snake, took ground there as well and used the center to slow the d-side in case I was wrong. We beat them to the snake and started digging out the kills. 4-3 and we are within 1. I’m thinking to myself, “if I am Impact how do I adjust?” Then I thought their ego may get the best of them. They were thinking, “Guys, get to your spots and just shoot these guys.” So, I thought we should make them show us those guns again. We gamble they would think we would try to make it out 5 alive with a conservative break to get our guns up but instead we took big bites. It paid off. 4-4, tie game. However, Impact would show us those guns again in the next point. 5-4. Some will say I shouldn’t have conceded the point when I did and that we should have thought about point margin. Trust me, I was thinking about point margin but I also recognized that my boys had dug and fought hard to come back and I was going to give them the opportunity to win this match. We would take the snake wedge but they would beat us to the snake on the next point. Zuppa catches Stu entering the seam but Drew catches Zuppa. This gives us the body advantage as Matt Jackson attempted to cross to d side earlier and failed. And then we had the snake… Aaron Smith gets in there which draws the gun allowing d-side to pressure. This is a pick your poison field and Impact chose theirs…with some help from a ref. Now… this next part is very crucial and where I made a mistake. Justin Cornell of Impact gets shot by Britt Simpson. Justin then proceeds to put paint on Britt and Drew (Britt told me he will never be that nice again and I believe him). What does the ref do when he sees the hit on JC? He simply pulls him and doesn’t throw the red flag. Even the crowd roared their disapproval. A hopper hit is a yellow if you pull the trigger (they didn’t hesitate to pull the yellow on Stu in the Uprising match). A hopper hit and then you shoot my guy much less two of them? That is and should be a textbook red flag. They should have pulled Justin and his snake player and Impact should have played down a body the next point putting the ‘Canes on the power play with 1:08 left. A 5 on 4 headed into that last point… who knows what would have happened. But what SHOULD have happened is I should have marched my Sicilian/Irish butt right over to Jason Trosen and said I want that last play reviewed and I want Impact playing a man down. I didn’t. I got caught up in determining what we should do next and didn’t think to do it. That will not happen again. The only good thing that comes out of it is that my boy Daniel Camp beats Nick Leival in a one on one with one of the coolest matrix-esque moves in paintball and gets a red/gold coin! 5-5. We were in Xball now… hats off to Impact on that last point. They did what they needed to do… 6-5 final with the win going to Impact. We were now sitting on a 1-1 record heading into the next day.
We had scouted Diesel and the Russians. My initial thought was, Diesel will adjust. Pocket was not working for them. So let’s take this data we had on them with a grain of salt until we can review their fist match tomorrow. After reviewing our data on the Russians and re-watching their games, I didn’t see them needing to adjust too much. They played a very straight game. Bully a gun with two and take ground. Super fast and aggressive. We knew we needed to fight fire with fire. We thought we had the right approach. But then, everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face.
The Red Legion match was the one I was most interested and excited to play. These guys were back to full strength and are a machine. This would be another big test and boy was it. We actually bounced both their wide runners on the break in the first point. Woulda coulda shoulda… they didn’t break so, doesn’t matter. Control what you can control right? But our guns were there. Second point our guns were there again and we had position but the Russians had better field awareness than us. I’ll be honest with you… I don’t exactly know what happened on that 3rd point… they ran guns up wherever they wanted. We stick Kirill but then a grenade went off in our backfield. Jacob Searight tries to save the point with a great counter aggressive move but it is was too late. The next point we were just out-played. It’s going to happen at this level. 4-0. But we had been here before. We knew we had to push the pace harder and we did. We won some gun fights and pressed forward to put a point on the board. The next point both teams shot each others snake side 1’s but we take the center first. Thought we had them contained but we let legion spread out of the D-side can. We continue to press but we get caught each time. 5-1. “Be first, be fast, but check off – there is still plenty of time in this match”. We shot their D-side the next point but draw a minor. 6-1. We are now 1 point away from being mercied. But my guys kept their cool. I started doing the math with us being down by 5 with 6.5 minutes left. We realized we had time and we could still make a game of it. We shifted away from the two line approach, adjusted some line personnel to highlight what we wanted to do. Heavy guns up with a heavy center push to increase statistical survival on break. It pays off and we win the point in under the average time required. I figured we had a minute ten per point and we did it in a minute two if memory serves. We were ahead of the curve. 6-2. We made one more mild adjustment with the guns and it pays off again. 6-3. The guys were feeling it now. We know Kirill wanted to beat us to the center so we positioned for it. We moved the skirmish line to the 40 (save for the snake) and we closed it to within 2. 6-4. And we were still ahead of the average time per point necessary. But now we are in x ball. The Russians call a time out. The point starts and we end up with a 4 on 3 advantage. Then it became a 3 on 3 with just over 2 minutes (hey, the Russians are great gun fighters). Now, I will admit… I was considering point spread as the point evolved. Two small mistakes cost us that point. Again… I almost didn’t towel. But then I looked at my guys, they were composed and we are discussing what had happened at that point. One more baby. Lets go. Say what you want but my guys gave it their all in that last point and that match. I was smiling internally even with the loss.
The next 2 hours were a roller coaster. There were some outside factors that may have “iced” our flow. But anyone who looks at outside factors like that and says that’s why we lost is a loser. You have to perform and execute no matter what. By the way, none of my guys let that stuff get them. This was me analyzing as I have a tendency to do. This is paintball. And AC Diesel came to play just like we did against our other 3 opponents. We knew what they wanted to do and we let them do it. We missed shots, played sloppy/loose, and the guys knew it. Hats off to Mark Johnson and his crew. But that is the difference at this level… consistency is key. I remember shaking hands with Diesel and saying to them, “Thank you for the education. Thank you for the lesson.” And I genuinely meant it. My guys are better for it.
Summation of the first event, we played well but we have a long way to go if we want to hang with the teams in this division. There are approximately 200 players who get to play at this level and we deserve to be among them. Yes, we had a good debut but we are not resting. We are learning. And we will continue to learn.
We set 4 goals headed into this event:
- Win a point
- Connect points (win two points back to back)
- Win a match
- Don’t get last
We succeeded in meeting all 4 goals at this first event. For that I am thankful and pleased. But there is more to do. More goals need to be added on top of those 4. These 4 will go with us the rest of the season. They won’t change. But goals 5 and 6 will.
A good friend of mine summed up the New Orleans Hurricanes pro debut in a rather succinct and profound way. He said, “You guys ate from every buffet table. You got a 6-0. You got 6-0’d. In bad weather conditions. Got in a close back and forth match against a top team (Impact). And got to play the Russians.”
I want to take a moment and thank Jared Lackey of Tampa Bay Damage (Formerly of Carolina Crisis). John Dresser of JT let me know that he was the one who designed our new jerseys. The jerseys are fire Jared. Thank you.
I want to thank Tim Land of Gi Sportz for taking good care of us at the paint truck. I am, for lack of a better word, a paint snob. Tim gets it. Thank you Tim. You are the man.
I want to thank another Tim but I don’t know his last name. Tim the Tech guy from Planet Eclipse. Dude was right there with us in the pits helping. He was polite, professional, and johnny on the spot. Sure, he is probably in the pits for all the Eclipse teams but it just felt good having him there. Dude was genuine and we appreciated it. If any of you reading this know his name, shoot it to me in a DM so I can contact him.
Shout out to Walker Gautsche from Carbon. Dude is always smiling and is just a pleasant person to be around. Hooked us up with our gear and we appreciate it!
I didn’t get to hang with any of the Virtue crew but thank you too! The hoppers performed flawlessly.
Thanks to Matty Marshal and Rich Telford for the respect. It is greatly appreciated. And a quick shout out to Mike Hinman for the support and after event advice.
Thank you to Matt Engles for making the old man feel like he belongs and to Mikey Candaleria for being a cool cat. A special thanks to George Fava – dude is legit professional and a pleasure to be around.
Thank you to the NXL for a well run event.
Before I close this out, I want to say something to our friends, family, and fans… Thank you for all the love and support. It was overwhelming and we want you to know we will continue to try and do you proud. We are truly blessed to have you all. More to come, we promise.
Be water my friends.