SMC ready to serve the competition

SMC to host regional table tennis tournament

Every Sunday, the gym at Santa Monica College is transformed into a community recreation center. 

From outside, passersby would probably assume the loud sneaker squeaks emanating from within to be a byproduct of either basketball or volleyball. 

Yet instead, it is badminton players who fly across the court and table tennis players who rally back and forth on the many tables in the center of the gym.

Members of the SMC table tennis team often compete in the Sunday round-robin tournaments.

The gym has been open to badminton and table tennis like this for the past 40 years – ever since Professor Emeritus Jo Kidd started the Sunday lab for recreation majors back in 1971.

This coming Sunday, however, the mood will be a little more serious, as SMC will play host to the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association’s semiannual regional tournament.

The tournament takes place every fall and spring and features 10 southern California universities, including USC and UCLA.  SMC is the only junior college competing in the event.

The SMC team is grouped into A, B, and C divisions, which will compete on Sunday.  Team A is headed by first-year coach Kamran Khairzed, who played table tennis and volleyball for SMC in 1994.

In order to move onto nationals, teams have to finish first or second in their region. 

Khairzed believes the toughest opponents will be USC and UCLA, but thinks his team definitely has a shot to advance. 

SMC has competed in the regional qualifier since 2009, but their best finish has been fourth. He mentioned that he’d be disappointed if the team doesn’t finish at least second.

“We have a really solid team this time,” Khairzed said.  “In the past we had, really, one good player.”

If the team does advance to nationals, Khairzed thinks it will speak highly of the players and the school, as the only time his team can practice together is on Sundays, meanwhile universities have the facilities to practice every day.

The four players from team A include captain Moqadas Atifmal, co-captain William Graff, Lu Shunzhi, and Nirut Ukositkul.  Players must attend SMC and maintain a GPA of 2.0 or above.

Graff, who is excited for his first collegiate event, says that the players on the team help each other get better.

Graff mentioned that a tournament like this opens doors for SMC students who want to move on to four-year universities. 

Graff is competing in the team event, but is also representing SMC in the individual section.

In an event like this, it is as much strategy as it is skill. 

As a coach, Khairzed must match his players against the right opposing player, so that the team has the best chances of success. 

Some of the many styles include attack, defense, blocker, looping or spin ball, and counter-looping.

The tournament begins at 8 a.m. this Sunday Nov. 13. 

Matches will be played in a best-of-five format, where games go up to 11 points and players will have a chance to compete in either the singles or the doubles section.