Continuing our celebration of a new year at the Arkansas Table Tennis Academy, we are pleased to share this report of our 2020 January Teams Weekend tournament, held in North Little Rock, Arkansas on Saturday and Sunday, January 18 and 19.
Thank you to our local sponsors Edward Henkel, DVM & Mary Henkel, DVM of Stuttgart Animal Clinic in Stuttgart, Arkansas! They helped us cover the USATT sanction fee. Also, thank you to my parents, Mike & Cathy Lauro of Sun City Center (Tampa), Florida for donations to cover Subway sandwiches for all competitors on both days. These sponsorships help us to continue providing high quality playing venue conditions and to plan for more tournaments and program during the year.
Thank you to JOOLA USA for supporting the Arkansas Table Tennis Academy in various ways over the last year. We love the JOOLA Prime 3-Star balls and have not had one ball break in play during 4 days of tournament competition so far. (Only one ball has been broken so far because it was stepped on!) They are one of the most consistent, durable, and affordable tournament balls we have ever used.
I would also like to offer heartfelt appreciation to Matt Hetherington for his encouragement in writing articles about our club activities and his patience with me getting them ready for publication. Matt, thank you for all you have done as the media director at USATT. I wish you all the best in your new adventures ahead and continued success at MHTableTennis.com.
All of the tournament results are listed on the Omnipong website here: ARKTTA 2020 January U3200 Teams Weekend - Results.
Saturday Group Photo (from left: Carlo, Darius, Charlie, Jason, Kitt, Alex, David, Mike. Photo by Sharon Piech)
Saturday started off with the U3200 Teams event.
Four teams (all from Arkansas), each with 2 players, battled in a round robin format. We welcomed several players from Central Arkansas and brothers Jason and Alex Piech from Northwest Arkansas. Prize money was given for all four places, with the champions getting $160, 2nd place $100, 3rd Place $80, and 4th place $40. The team tie format consisted of singles, singles, doubles, single, and singles.
The team of Carlo Satierra (Pine Bluff) and Charlie Brooks (Sheridan) clinched first place by winning all 3 of their team ties. 2nd place went to David Willard (North Little Rock) and Mike Lauro (Little Rock). 3rd place was claimed by Jason Piech (Bentonville) and Kitt Oudthone (Ward). 4th place went to the two lefties, Alex Piech (Bentonville) and Darius Ford (Little Rock).
U3200 Teams Champions! Carlo Satierra (left, Pine Bluff), Charlie Brooks (right, Sheridan)
U3200 Teams 2nd Place! Mike Lauro (left, Little Rock), David Willard (right, North Little Rock)
U3200 Teams 3rd Place! Jason Piech (left, Rogers), Kitt Oudthone (right, Ward)
U3200 Teams 4th Place! Darius Ford (left, Little Rock), Alex Piech (right, Rogers).
Saturday - Double Elimination Event with Random Redraws
After the team event ended, 5 players (Mike Lauro, Carlo Satierra, Alex Piech, Jason Piech and David Willard) competed in a double elimination event. To keep things interesting, after the first round when 3 or more players were at the same level in the bracket, each player’s name was redrawn randomly to determine their new position in the bracket.
The final of the loser’s bracket came down to a contest between Carlo Satierra and Alex Piech. Carlo’s steady play earned him a 2-0 lead (11-6, 11-8). Alex rallied in the 3rd game and outlasted Carlo 13-11 to stay alive in the match. In the end, Carlo was too strong and claimed the 4th game 11-6 and the match. Having lost to Mike Lauro in the final round of the winner’s bracket, Carlo returned to the overall final needing to win 2 matches for the title. It was not to be for Carlo as Mike’s consistent play won the day. For participation in the double elimination event, all players got a 6-pack of JOOLA Prime 3-start balls.
Saturday - JOOLA Mini Table Challenge Singles and Doubles
You can check out all the action from the JOOLA MIni Table Challenge that we livestreamed on Facebook.
The JOOLA Mini Table Challenge Singles event had 4 entries (Mike, Alex, Jason, and David) in a round robin format. Players used their own paddles, but the ball was the oversized JOOLA Elephant Ball, and the table was the JOOLA Mini Connect (equivalent to ¼ size of a regulation tournament table). The finishing positions came out according to player ratings: 1st Mike, 2nd Jason, 3rd Alex, 4th David. Mike and David teamed up against brothers Alex and Jason in the JOOLA Mini Table Challenge Doubles. Mike and David were soundly defeated by Alex and Jason, whose control and teamwork earned them a large JOOLA Green Power X-Glue kit and JOOLA Turbo Cleaner spray and cleaning sponge.
Participants of the Double Elimination event and JOOLA Mini Table Challenge. From left: Carlo Satierra, Mike Lauro, Alex Piech, David Willard, Jason Piech.
Winners of the JOOLA Mini Table Challenge Doubles: Alex Piech and Jason Piech (front center and right). With Mike Lauro (left) and William Hall (back).
On Sunday, we welcomed back some players from Saturday and our friends from the Memphis area.
Sunday Group Photo. From left: Shoujie Yang (China via Southaven, MS), Darius Ford (Little Rock), Raj Coona (Memphis,TN), Perry Smith (Holly Springs, MS), Ricky Criado (Jacksonville, AR), Kitt Oudthone (Ward, AR), David Willard (North Little Rock), Varu Coona (Memphis, TN), Tony Webb (Garland County Public Library), John Falco (Benton, AR)
Sunday - Open Singles Round Robin
Sunday events started off with Open Singles Round Robin of 10 players. 2 Groups of 5 competed for spots in Division 1 and 2 round robin (groups of 4) and Division 3 playoff (2 players). 1st and 2nd positions advanced to Division 1 while 3rd and 4th positions advanced to Division 2. 5th place advanced to Division 3 playoff. Listening to player suggestions from our first tournament last December, we awarded prize money or gift certificates for the top 3 places in each Division.
We also welcomed Tony Webb, player and driving force behind the Central Arkansas Table Tennis Club, a developing organization that meets at the Garland County Public Library. Central Arkansas TTC offers free table tennis activities to the public, including regular recreational youth, family, and adult tournaments.
In the first round of the Open Singles, Group 1 finishing positions were in order of rating with no upsets. Ricky Criado and Varun Coona advanced to Division 1. Darius Ford and Kitt Oudthone advanced to Division 2. Tony Webb advanced to Division 3.
In Group 2, the finishing positions also mirrored the player rankings, with a couple of close matches. Perry Smith fought bravely in 2 matches. Against John Falco, Perry came up short in the first 2 games, losing 11-13 and 9-11, but commanded the last 3 games winning 11-4, 11-4, 11-3. Against the first seed in the group and second seed overall, Shoujie Yang, Perry mounted a stand by forcing a 5th and deciding game. However, Shoujie pulled away to win 11-5.
From Group 2, Shoujie Yang and Raj Coona advanced to Division 1. Perry Smith and John Falco advanced to Division 2. David Wilard advanced to Division 3.
Division 3: Two players squared off in a single elimination final playoff for division champion. David Willard claimed the prize over Tony Webb by winning 3-0. But Tony, playing in his first USATT sanctioned tournament, made steady progress in each game before forcing deuce in the 3rd. David was able to prevent a 4th game by winning 12-10 to clinch the victory.
Division 3 Playoff results: David Willard (Champion), Tony Webb (2nd)
Open Singles Round Robin, Division 3. Champion: David Willard (right). 2nd Place: Tony Webb (left).
Division 2: A four player round robin final with Darius Ford, Perry Smith, John Falco and Kitt Oudthone. The deciding match for first place came down to Perry Smitha against Darius Ford with both players undefeated in division play. This battle saw Darius edge out Perry in the first game 13-11. Perry won the second game and Darius won the 4th 12-10 to force a 5th game. It was Perry Smith's day as he won the last game 11-7 and claimed the Division 2 top prize.
Division 2 RR results: Perry Smith (Champion), Darius Ford (2nd), Kitt Oudthone (3rd), John Faclo (4th)
Open Singles Round Robin, Division 2. Champion: Perry Smith (right). 2nd Place: Darius Ford (center). 3rd Place: Kitt Oudthone (left).
Division 1: Battling for the overall championship in Division 1, Ricky Criado was the lone Arkansas player competing against the father-son team of Raj and Varun Coona, and 75 years-young Shoujie Yang. Shoujie is a penholder originally from China but visits his family regularly in Mississippi. His matches were some of the most entertaining to watch.
Shoujie and Varun play each other regularly in Memphis and today it was another matchup. This match was intense. Shoujie took the first 2 games at 11-9, 11-9 with Varun just coming up short. But Varun stayed alive in the 3rd game by winning 11-9. The 4th game went down to the wire but Shoujie pulled away to win 11-8. Shoujie again faced another familiar player in Raj Coona in a roller coaster of a match. Shoujie took the first game 11-6. Raj then evened the match winning 11-6. Shoujie won the 3rd game 12-10. Raj stayed alive winning the 4th game 11-9. The 5th and deciding game saw both players continuing to fight hard all the way to 10-10. It would not be a sweep of the father-son team by Shoujie. Raj scored the final two points to claim victory over his friend. By ratings this was an upset. But both players gave us a memorable match that was exciting to experience. Raj's performance earned him 2nd place overall in Division 1.
The last match of the round was as entertaining as the previous one. Ricky Criado, the current Arkansas State Champion, took on Shoujie Yang who had hopes to force a tie-break for first place in the round robin. This match was another thrilling contest that kept us on the edge of our seats. Ricky won the first game 11-9. Shoujie stayed tough and took the second game 11-9. Ricky countered by winning the 3rd game 11-7. The 4th game was a nailbiter going to deuce and then tied at 12-12. With the game up for grabs by either player, Ricky prevailed in the next 2 points for the match win an overall Division 1 championship.
Division 1 RR results: Ricky Criado (Champion), Raj Coona (2nd), Shoujie Yang (3rd) and Varun Coona (4th)
Open Singles Round Robin, Division 1. Champion: Ricky Criado (right). 2nd Place: Raj Coona (left). 3rd Place: Shoujie Yang (center)
Last event on Sunday - Hard Bat Singles
The second and final event of the weekend was the Hard Bat Singles. Six players (Mike, Ricky Criado, Darius Ford, Tony Webb, Alex Piech, Jason Piech, and David Willard) entered the arena with classic paddles composed of all wood blades and a single topsheet of pimples out rubber without sponge. The loud clacking sound was distinctly heard over all others in the venue. The match format was best 2 out of 3 with games to 21 and each player alternating 5 serves.
Ricky and Mike met in the last round, both going undefeated in the first 4 rounds. Ricky took the first game 21-13. Mike regrouped to win the second game 21-17. Trailing for most of the 3rd game, Mike called a timeout down 10-15 with the serve. After losing the lead slightly, but having edged closer to the brink of victory, Ricky served at 19-16. At 20-17, Ricky called a timeout to focus on closing out the match. During the timeout, Mike also used the break to visualize perfect attacking strokes and to remind himself to breathe regularly during play. The break favored Mike as he scored the next 3 points to force deuce and to gain the serve. Relying the backhand attack that proved steady throughout the match, Mike kept pressure on Ricky and forced him to play defense. When the dust settled from the hardbat frenzy, Mike emerged as the winner 22-20 having taken the last 5 points in a row.
Hardbat Singles. Champion: Mike Lauro
Hardbat Singles. 2nd Place: Ricky Criado (right)
With the events of the weekend concluded, and the academy's second sanctioned tournament ended, we had some time to reflect on this experience. For me personally, it has been extremely rewarding to see what we can accomplish in an 1,800 square foot facility with 3 tournament courts and 1 robot/practice court. I do not know of any other clubs in the country having sanctioned tournaments with only 3 tables. If they are out there, I would love to connect with them and share thoughts and experiences.
Jason Piech shared his highlight of the weekend, "This was the first my brother [Alex] and I won doubles together!" Alex encouraged us to keep having tournaments, "On a scale of 1 to 10, the tournament was SUPER fun!"
Ricky Criado's standout moments include the disbelief that he was ahead 20-17 in the 3rd game of the Hardbat Singles event and came up short. "Regardless of the result, playing hardbat again was very exciting." Also, a memory he will cherish forever is the privilege to play Shoujie Yang from Southaven, Mississippi. Ricky is age 30, and Shoujie age 75. "It was very inspirational to see and play against Shoujie. I hope I can compete at that level when I reach his age. He is living proof that you can have fun and compete in table tennis regardless of your age." As encouragement to players of all ages and skill levels, Ricky also reminded us that dedication and perseverance are two qualities that serve us well throughout all areas of life.
We look forward to seeing you at our next tournament, which will probably be in early March. Please stay tuned by checking our Omnipong.com listings and our website arktta.org.
The ARKTTA website tournament page also has a brief summary of this tournament report.
The ARKTTA Facebook page has a photo album of the weekend's activities.
More photos and videos of the action can be seen in our Google Photo Albums: