Table tennis team achieves national recognition

The player leaps to counter the fury of his opponent, knocking volley after volley right back at him. The opponent responds with equal ferocity, breaking through his defenses, getting in just the right position, releasing an unstoppable force in order to ensure victory.

Table tennis is a sport requiring the utmost concentration, precision and effort. Tech’s own table tennis team is a prime example of this level of effort and commitment. Having already achieved national-level status and recognition, Tech’s table tennis team plans on progressing even further in the uphill journey against other nationally-ranked teams. The girls’ team in particular has done well, scoring in the top four at the national level. The matches at the national level typically involve four single players and a doubles match. Victory is decided on a best of five scale.

“We just started about two and a half years ago. We are ranked number 15 in the country,” said Paul Balla, third-year AE and team vice president.

The team has been improving ever since they entered the competitive circuit through a combination of skill and determination.

“We have practice three times a week. [On] Tuesdays and Fridays [practice is] open for all types of members,” Balla said.

“Thursdays are for people who want to become more serious in the sport. We have 15 members on the competitive team,” said Abishek Kumar, ME graduate student and team president. The team has finished first in Georgia for the last two years and plans on going to the nationals in Rochestor, Minn. this year.

“We finished first in the regional tournament again. We beat every other team including Georgia and Georgia State,” said Kumar.

The national tournament is not the only place where this team faces off against opponents. They have several tournaments throughout the semester and plan on having even more tournaments in the semesters to come.

The team itself has a long history. It started as a casual club founded by Mark Peterson, ME ‘08, the team’s first president. The team has since experienced a turn towards competition as well as a changing guard of presidents.

Aaron Scott, ME ’08, a former president of the organization, designed a mechanical engineering project that shot balls using gravity for people to use as practice. Kumar himself has been playing since 10th grade for fun.

“I got serious with it just recently. I came to Georgia Tech, but in my first two years there was no real club, but there were good players. In my third year I met with Aneece, a third-year ME and one of the best players in Lebanon. I also met with Mark Peterson, the president,” said Kumar.

“We got an inactive club off the ground. At first, Peterson was only interested in recreational play, but we made sure he was interested in competing with other teams,” Kumar said.

“I transferred here a year ago from Gainesville State College. I played there recreationally. I wanted to join a team and so I met Aaron Scott, and he really got me involved in this club,” Balla said.

The team hopes to become an even greater club, and climb above their top-15 ranking from last year.

“This year we hope to finish in the top 10. If it becomes a varsity sport, while I don’t think it’s possible, we could have a lot more members and scholarships for people. Anyone can get involved, but to join the [competitive] team you have to pass tryouts and be in the top ten or fifteen. To go to nationals you have to be on the A-team,” Kumar said.

Several of the team’s members are graduating this year, so the current members are really hoping to recruit some fresh, talented faces.

“We actually have a new person coming next year with 10 years of table tennis experience. His mom emailed about her son, asking how the team here is. So people really do know that we are the best in Georgia and one of the best teams around,” Balla said.