At the Stony Brook Campus Recreation Center, the usual sounds of weights clanking on the ground and basketballs thumping and swishing on the courts heard all over the building.
No one ever really hears the sound of a ping-pong ball bouncing back and forth on a plastic table, but it’s there almost every day of the week.
“To be honest, I don’t even think the university knows that we are actually a team,” Thang Bui, a graduate computer science major, said. “We’re in there so much practicing, yet I’m not really sure if anyone really knows that we aren’t just doing this for fun.”
Bui is one of four members of the Stony Brook table tennis team, a club team not affiliated with Stony Brook Athletics or the NCAA. They get a budget from the Undergraduate Student Government, but still have to pay for a majority of things like equipment, travel and tournament fees.
However, the table tennis team recently reached a feat for the first time in club history. The team clinched a berth in a national competition that will host over 250 colleges in Round Rock, Texas from April 20 to 22. They claimed a wild card spot last season, but were unable to make the competition due to financial issues.
“We ran into the problem of funding this year, too. So that kind of hurts,” David Song, a sophomore computer science major, said. “It ran out early this year, but we did get some help. The club itself gets it own budget.”
After clinching the invitation to the national competition, Bui went to USG to ask for more money to help pay for the fees of the tournament. Both USG and the Campus Recreation office helped give the table tennis team more money to help cover some of the costs of the tournament.
Finally being able to go to nationals has proven to the team that all of their hard work is paying off.
“This is certainly the greatest achievement of the table tennis team in the past decade,” Bui said on behalf of the team in an email. “It embodies our sheer determination to excellence not only in academic performance (our team members are all on the Dean’s List or are in graduate school) but also in extracurricular activities, far beyond New York. We have not direct qualified for nationals in 10 years, yet we won first place of the New York Uptown Division in February.”
Kian Avilla, a senior biochemistry major, is the team’s president. However, his title does not mean he is in full control of managing the team.
“It’s great to get involved, and it is nice because I get to watch them play, which is something I haven’t been able to do in past years,” Avilla said. “I think managing is basically running the club and mostly, the team manages themselves.”
The members of the team have been playing table tennis for a majority of their lives, most beginning competitive play in high school. They knew that table tennis isn’t recognized by the NCAA as a sport and that there are differences from the high school level to the collegiate level.
“In high school, table tennis wasn’t considered a sport until my sophomore year,” Song said. “In New York City, table tennis is a Public School Athletic League [PSAL] sport. College-wise, everything is more organized because it’s existed for quite a while. As for high school, the first year or two were a little shaky because it wasn’t a thing yet.”
The team has big aspirations for the upcoming tournament. Bui and the rest of the team feel that they are ready to go and do whatever it takes to achieve success.
“We are determined to at least place in the top eight teams,” Bui said. “Not only that, we are excited for the opportunity to play and learn from the best. Last but not least, we want to represent our fellow Seawolves. We want to demonstrate our passion for excellence against all odds as one of the smallest, youngest, and least known sports teams on campus.”