Weekly pingpong tournament competitors play for a ‘regal’ prize

Saddleback student Efrain Osorio plays the ball as he competes against Merilyn Solis. (Breanna Greenup/Lariat)

Saddleback College student Efrain Osorio plays the ball as Kevin Wei watches in the background at The Game Lounge. (Breanna Greenup/Lariat)

At Saddleback College, pingpong isn’t just the garage sport that people tend to think it is. Within Saddleback’s student life, pingpong isn’t just for fun, it’s a competitive sport—at least it is every Thursday.

This last Thursday, student life hosted a pingpong tournament that started promptly at 2 p.m. The tournament was made up of five games, each game consisting of one round of 21-points. The winner of the tournament is awarded two Regal movie ticket passes.

The tournament began with a game between novice players, Merilyn Solis and Efrain Osorio. The pair has competed on various occasions, with Osorio falling to Solis each time.

“Every single time this guy loses [to Solis],” said audience member Jamil Zmary. “She’s this big and she’s whooping on him.”

Osorio has competed in the last four competitions and has struggled to make it out of the first round. Three of which, he has lost to Solis.

” I’ve lost to Merilyn for the past three matches,” Osorio said. “So I’m hoping to redeem myself right now, so here’s hoping for the best.”

The first game began with a rally, in which Osorio and Solis hit the ball back and forth, till Osorio scored, winning the serve. Even with the winning serve, Osorio started out behind, trailing behind Solis by 8 points.

However, the game took a quick turn with Osorio catching up to Solis and tying the game. The two were faced in a head-to-head match until Solis was able to pull out and beat Osorio with a 2-point victory. The final score of the first game was 21-19 in favor of Solis.

Though, she is consistent in making it past the first round, Solis is humble, recounting that she is still fairly new to the sport.

“I really suck, I wasn’t even able to hit the table, till around three weeks ago,” Solis said.

With Solis secured for the fourth round, the second round commenced between players, Joseph Torres and Xander Gordon. The game was close, but Gordon stayed consistently in the lead. Torres fell to Gordon with a final score of 21-17.

The third round was a quick game between David Perez and Sergio Flores. Perez handily defeated Flores in 21-5 victory.

The fourth round was a face off between Solis and Gordon. Solis started out behind Gordon by 5 points, but was able to catch up with Gordon, only straying 1 point behind at a score of 8-9. However, the momentum changed, with Gordon ending the game with 10 point lead. Gordon takes the victory and moves onto the final round with a 21-11 win.

The final was a competition between Gordon and Perez. The final round began with a rally, Gordon winning the serve. Despite having the advantage, Gordon consistently trailed behind Perez, the closest being within 4 points. The tournament ended with a 21-8 victory in favor of Perez.

Even though the tournament is certainly competitive, it also is a place where much of the competitors have fun and enjoy each others company. Perez jokes that the biggest struggle was competing against his best friend.

“Playing against my best friend, that hurt right here,” Perez said.

Along with the players, the audience members are constant at the tournament each week, often joking around, while keeping score. Zmary says that he likes to act as a commentator.

“I’m a commentatior,” Zmary said. “If I see somebody mess up, I make sure they know they messed up.”

The tournament doesn’t just draw beginners, but advanced players too. One player, Kevin Wei, didn’t compete in this tournament, but has in the past. Wei is semi-pro player that has been playing for 11 years.

“I’ve been playing for 11 years—I started when I was 12 years old,” Wei said. “My dad got me into table tennis because I wasn’t very good at tennis.”

Wei says that pingpong isn’t considered a serious sport in the United States, but he wants people know that pingpong can be a serious and fulfilling sport.

“It’s pretty hard to get something that’s considered to be a garage game into the public’s view as an international sport,” Wei said. “It’s widespread, it’s just people don’t know about it in the U.S.”

Campus life squad member Cesar Contreras says that the tournament can get very competitive, especially when the value of the prize pool increases. Contreras says that there is a tournament in December that will be giving out bigger prizes.

“Every week we usually give out two free movie tickets and a free pizza,” Contreras said. “Sometime in December we’re having our bigger prizes, which consist of iPods, iPads and other accesories.”

The date for this tournament is not yet set, but Saddleback’s student life will continue to hold these tournaments every Thursday at the game lounge.