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Buzz: US Junior Highlight – Sally Moyland

It’s been a long time since my last Nationals

(By Sally Moyland)

This time, the event wasn’t held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Instead, the tournament was held for the first time at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. There were around fifty tables, all with red non-slip matting.

Along with the new location, there was a new sponsor providing tables and score-keeping equipment for the event. The tables had a different feel from what I was used to. Topspin balls would bounce higher than expected, while underspin would be on the heavy side. I also found it a challenge to keep the ball short. I spent a good deal of time adjusting to the new feeling, but it wasn’t a smooth transition for me.

The convention center’s environment was quite nice. I found that the lighting was good, as there weren’t many occasions when I couldn’t see the ball well. One thing that was on the negative side was that there was a breeze or two towards the front of the playing hall. However, on the third day some vents were closed, and things were back to normal.

For this competition, I focused on the age events – Women’s Singles, U21, U19, and U15. An interesting thing took place for the events I played. The top ten players or so for each of these events was the same. The brackets were drawn up in a fixed fashion, and so all of them were seeded/split in pretty much the same way. In total, I played the same two highest ranked players three times each in the semis or the finals.

I managed to win three of the four semi-final matches I played but came up short in the Women’s Singles semi-final match.  In the end, I was on the losing side for the three finals matches, so I finished out the event with three silvers and a bronze.

I played a total of seventeen matches this tournament, with an overall match score of 13 wins and four losses. I’ve played more matches in a tournament before, but I still ended up feeling awfully tired. The strong opponents and best of seven games match play definitely were a big reason.

I always thought my serve was legal. But to my surprise, during my final match of the Nationals, I received a warning. The referee said that I didn’t have the ball placed on my palm before the toss. He said it was on the crease of my fingers. Even though I didn’t feel that way, I made the adjustment for it to be obvious that the ball was away from my fingers and the serve was legal. Luckily, it was only a warning. After the match, I tried to figure out why my serve wasn’t obviously legal. I concluded that it was the way my hand was tilting that made the ball look like it was touching my fingers. In my serve practices, I will make sure to have a flat palm while keeping the ball further back in my hand.

There’s still much for me to learn and improve both mentally and physically throughout my game.  During this time between major competitions, I will put effort into working on my techniques and refining my play.

Overall, the tournament was a good experience for me even with these results. I look forward to more events and getting that win in the finals. I would like to say a big thanks to my parents, coaches, and Bowmar Sports for supporting me on my table tennis journey.

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