SMC Table Tennis Achieves Unprecedented Success at a National Level
The Santa Monica College (SMC) Table Tennis team’s journey in the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA) ends in the Round of 16. They reached this far for the first time in the program’s 40-year history. They performed well in singles play, with one team member advancing to the quarterfinals. In doubles, the team advanced to the Round of 16. Of the 24 teams who qualified for the national tournament, SMC was the only community college, all others were four-year universities.
In order to make it to the national level, SMC defeated USC and UCLA, ultimately winning the SoCal West division. On the national stage, in North Carolina, the team won the Round Robin, beating Duke University to move to the round of 16 and losing a close game to the University at Buffalo.
These unprecedented team victories were overseen by coach Kamran Khairzad. He was a player at SMC in 1994 and has stayed involved with the table tennis program ever since. While he currently works full-time at UCLA, he still considers SMC to be home. He attributes the team’s success largely to the strength of the program and the amount of support they receive from the Kinesiology and Athletics Department Chair, Elaine Roque.
SMC only has one gym, so they have to split time with other big programs like basketball and volleyball, and Roque is very helpful with facilitating this. The program is funded fully through the department, and has been able to raise money through fundraisers like recently hosting a national team trial.
Khairzad says that SMC table tennis has international notoriety. “We are very well-known for our table tennis. We have players that came from Japan and Korea, and told us that they knew about Santa Monica College’s table tennis program. You’re not going to find anything like this in Southern California.”
The team’s players are also proud of the strength of their program. Ayush Kapoor, a native of India who has been playing since age 8, and at SMC for the past two years, said the support he’s received here is unparalleled. “Even compared to all the other universities, like any university, any big university, we get the most support from SMC.”
Kapoor was particularly appreciative of the capability to play on a national level without having to worry about how to pay for the trip. “As a college student, funds are a big concern. So it reduces the financial burden if you want to play. So you can focus more on playing and less on the funding.” He’s transferring to his dream school, UCLA, in the fall.
Tiziano Valentino Aiello, a native of Italy, was the only Corsair to advance to quarterfinals in singles matches. While he felt that the team could have won another round in the nationals, he was proud that they were nominated as the most improved team. Aiello is transferring to LMU in the fall to study business, and says he might start his own table tennis team there.
The SMC table tennis team is losing all but one of its players to transfers next year. Practices take place on Sunday’s at the Corsair Gym.