Paddle battle: Table tennis club takes swing at rebuilding organization
Editor’s note: This story is the second in a series appearing occasionally that is intended to give readers a glimpse into unique clubs and organizations on campus.
In the blinding white racquetball court, it was nearly impossible to see the ping-pong ball slice over the net and into the air. But Matt Del Greco backpedaled, tracking the ball with an intense stare.
When the ball dropped into paddling range, Del Greco stretched and took a swipe at the ball, just barely missing. The spectators on the sideline laughed, and Del Greco threw up his arms in mock apology.
‘Come on, guys,’ Del Greco said, sheepishly. ‘I’m not Spider-Man.’
Del Greco, a junior communication and rhetorical studies major, may not be the web-slinging superhero, but he is one of the founders of Syracuse University’s Table Tennis Club. Although the club meets Sundayafternoons in Archbold Gymnasium, President Jp Palandranosaid the club began in his house on Livingston Avenue.
‘We found an old, broken down ping-pong table on the side of the road,’ said Palandrano, a junior bioengineering major. ‘So of course we had to bring it home and fix it up.’
Palandrano brought the club back to life after a few other students’ failed attempts to start it in the past. He set up the paperwork, applied at the end of the fall semester and recently received approval by the Department of Recreation Services. But paddle clenched menacingly and sweat dripping, it’s clear that he’s not done setting his goals just yet.
He said he hopes to set up matches against nearby colleges, including Cornell University and Onondaga Community College.
Del Greco chimed in, slumped against the wall, looking exhausted but exhilarated.
‘Our biggest goal, though, is to set up a table at center court or at the 50-yard line of the football field at the Dome,’ he said with a mischievous smile. ‘Whichever season it is, of course.’
Eight players arrived at the first practicelast Sunday night, cracking jokes as teams of two took to the table. While the group’s camaraderie shined off the court with echoing laughter and small talk, players duked it out on the table. They locked eyes in battle as the ball pinballed across the gym.
Palandrano said the club is open to everyone from the table tennis elite to those who have barely picked up a paddle before.
‘It’s not too structured,’ he said, scrambling to search for a ball that ricocheted off the netting. ‘If people say they suck, it just means they haven’t been pushed yet.’
Del Greco and Steven Roberts, a senior history major, live with Palandrano and sharpen their table tennis skills every day for about three hours.
‘We’ll play 20 minutes here, 20 minutes there,’ Del Greco said. ‘Whenever Jp comes home and shouts, ‘Who wants to play?’ me and Steve will run over and squeeze a few games in.’
For Roberts, table tennis is a tradition he picked up from his family and grew to love.
‘My grandma had a table in her basement, and my cousins would just play endless games against each other,’ he said. ‘I played tennis in high school, so it was just game, set and match from there.’
Del Greco explained the rules to newcomers, stopping every few points to describe how to serve or when to switch sides. He shouted the score before every serve, keeping the players new to the game in the loop.
In between serves, teams transformed into a flurry of paddle strokes and launched a whirlwind of backhanded blows at their opponents. The players refused to be confined to the perimeter of the table and galloped around the gym to rally.
Not afraid to show off his prowess, Palandrano returned one ball with a between-the-legs trick shot for an unhittable spike. The onlookers roared with raucous shouts.
‘Jp definitely brings a competitive edge,’ Roberts said. ‘Sometimes all you want to do is just kick his a**.’
Del Greco considers Palandrano his biggest rival when playing at home and during club practices.
‘I just try to give him a run for his money,’ Del Greco said with a laugh. ‘But we call him Spider Gump. He’s got reflexes like Spider-Man and plays a mean game of table tennis like Forrest Gump.’
Other players slouched over gym bags, relaxing between games. As the games on the table tennis battlefield grew more intense, even spectators had to duck and dodge out of the way from errantly hit balls.
As members left to brave the freezing flurries outside, Palandrano and his housemates rallied against one another, the ball grazing the edges of the table with frenzied precision.
‘This club is going to be good for all of us, no matter how long we’ve been playing,’ Palandrano said. ‘It’s a shame that it took until now to start this up so everyone could play more competitively.’
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