Rutgers paintball team travels to Florida for national championships
The Rutgers Paintball Team will be competing in the 2017 National Collegiate Paintball Association (NCPA) national championships from April 21 to 23 in Kissimmee, Florida.
Also competing will be Clemson University, Drexel, East Carolina, Texas A&M, Pennsylvania State and more.
“This is our third nationals, our first nationals we finished 50th out of 51st,” said Tyler Egrie, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. “Last year we finished 10th out of 42, so this year we’re trying to go out there and win it.”
Founded in 1994, Rutgers Paintball offers a recreational and competitive environment for people to explore the sport, according to their website.
The team has seen notable improvement over past years and hopes to continue the momentum as it moves on to nationals.
“This year we placed third at our first event, second at our second event and we just finished first this weekend,” said Mason Cueto, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. “We travel a lot together too, and it helps form a bond beyond teammates.”
The team practices every Sunday and occasional Saturdays at numerous facilities across New Jersey and the tri-state area.
“We play race-to-two format,” said Brian Thompson, a School of Arts and Sciences senior and president of the Rutgers Paintball club. “It’s basically playing best two out of three against several teams."
The team consists of a primary and secondary line of players to ensure every member plays, he said.
“We recruit anyone whether you have experience or not,” said Anthony Rizzo, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year and president-elect of the club. “Pretty much our entire second line is all freshman who have never played before.”
Rizzo said that the club aims to get more people involved in what they are doing.
“When I tell people I'm on the team they usually say, 'oh we have a team here?',” Rizzo said. “The more membership we have the better we can spread the word about the sport.”
The price of paintball often detracts individuals from playing, said Maximilian Emerle, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. Besides sponsorships, the team is left to bear the burden of the cost.
“Rutgers doesn’t provide us with any equipment,” he said. “Everything that we provide is from our pocket, even our practice paint.”
Although relatively new, a community has been developing the sport.
“Paintball is really like a niche where people involved know a lot about it but people who aren’t (involved) don’t,” Emerle said. “It’s one of those sports that’s all year round, there is no offseason.”
Hoping to best their championship placement, the team looks to gain morale from veteran team members as well as new ones.
“Going into the year we knew that we only had four tournaments left for like, half of our team,” Cueto said. “So trying to go out on top is the best case scenario we could have and we’re gonna be sad when it’s done.”
With Thompson, Egrie, Cueto and Emerle graduating, the club is focusing their energy on recruitment efforts.
“We want to get out there and just make more of a name for Rutgers Paintball than it already has,” Rizzo said. “Plus if we have more members we can get more sponsors and the perks of being a bigger team.”
Thompson said that he and other members try to gain new members by tabling at involvement fairs.
“If someone’s skeptical about getting into paintball they can always come out for a weekend, try it and get a feel for actually being on the field,” he said.
The team, compared to other sports, plays a limited number of times a season, making each competition and placement significantly important, Thompson said.
The team can be followed on social media channels and is currently running a GoFundMe to cover travel expenses to the national championships. As of March 31, the team is ranked 13 out of 47 teams in their league, he said.
“There’s paintball outside of college, but college paintball is just different,” Thompson said. “There’s no money, boosters … you're not playing for anything more than the love of the sport.”
Sharbel Skaff is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in exercise science. He is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.