Spectator chatter falls to a hush — then complete silence.
The sharp sounds of a ping-pong rally slice the air of the Fillius Events Barn as Hamilton’s Nate Drogseth ’14 battles Colgate’s Ping-Pong Club president, Alex Jiang. It’s the final round of the College Hill Ping-Pong Tournament as the Colgate Raider, up one game, struggles to hold off Drogseth’s comeback effort in the second game.
Despite the intense atmosphere on this Sunday afternoon, the Hamilton Ping-Pong Club is anything but hardcore. Every Monday evening, ping-pong beginners, experts and aficionados meet in the Tolles Pavilion to play recreationally for an hour on four tables. “Mondays suck,” says Hamilton’s Club President Matt Therkelsen ’12. “Playing ping-pong gives people something fun to do.”
The sport’s lobs, backspins, topspins, drop shots and smashes help many of the club members blow off steam. “I think it’s really picking up,” Therkelsen says. Last spring, Colgate invited the Continentals to play a tournament in Hamilton, and the friendly rivalry has grown. To advertise this year’s College Hill tournament, Therkelsen sent out an all-campus email with an image of a squished Colgate toothpaste tube above the caption, “Someone is gonna get stepped on.”
Close to a dozen Continentals and Raiders each round out their teams, and a few faculty members from both schools have also shown up to get their ping-pong groove on. Wei-Jen Chang, Therkelsen’s biochemistry professor, plays valiantly but is eliminated by a Colgate student early on. Therkelsen also loses — to a Colgate math professor.
Given the bracket style of the tournament, some players compete against their own club members, so there is no actual winning team. But fierce school pride is nonetheless on display. Drogseth holds his Colgate adversary at bay throughout the third and final game. With the score tied 20-20, the players wrestle through a few deuces until the Raider prevails — acing the decisive point and earning ultimate bragging rights for Colgate. For now.