(By Sally Moyland)
The Taiwan cadet national team qualification tournament has been my next goal since I made the mini-cadet team back in 2019. The tournament was located in Tainan in the south of Taiwan and lasted for four days. My mom drove us down south for three and a half hours to get there. We stayed in a pretty good hotel as it had a well done breakfast and some supper in the evening. Though the room wasn’t really big, I liked that there was a nice and open table which had a light. It fitted very well when I needed to write preparations or summaries for the competition.
Every day of competition my mom and I would wake up at six. Around six-thirty we would get out the door and take breakfast on the go. Mom and I would go pick up my coach, then drive to the competition arena and I would get ready for warm-up. It would be around seven by then. Warm-up using the competition tables would be open until eight-twenty, as competition starts at eight-thirty. For about one hour I would practice at the table with my teammate or my coach. After times-up everyone stops practice. If I felt that I wasn’t prepared enough for competition, I would go downstairs to the arena’s basement to do some more practice. There were about eight tables downstairs if more practice was needed.
Now competition starts. On the first day of competition I only had one match. The first day was also the only day that the girls’ and the boys’ matches overlapped. The boys were finishing their last round and the girls were starting the first couple of matches of the first round. After I finished my match, I helped cheer for some of the boys on our team.
The second day was much more tiring. My morning routine was the same, but I had many more matches. And since the boys finished and there were only girls competing, there was little time to rest in between matches. I won two more matches on the second day before I ended up losing to a well-rounded player in the match before the bubble match. Losing meant that I needed to compete in the second round. Since I got far enough in the first round all the players that lost in the match before the bubble match would draw their second round spot together. That spot would definitely be a big seeding, meaning almost everyone else would have to play one more match than me. There were four sections and every section would have one spot for each player that lost in a bubble match, and two spots for the players that lost in the match before the bubble match.
After the draw I played two more matches, and I successfully advanced. We sent coach back to his hotel, and Mom and I went back to ours.
Day three I had to win two more matches before I had a chance for the bubble match. I was fortunate enough to win in those two matches and make it to the bubble. This match was really important. I had lost in the first round, and only making the team on the second round would give me a chance for top six. My opponent was one year younger than me and I had defeated her the last time we played. That gave me some mental unease and I started to get nervous.
For the bubble match we get to walk in very formally, and sometimes the umpires and players even get introduced. It definitely was an exciting moment, but no matter what I hadn’t made the team yet and needed to keep focus.
The first game wasn’t too smooth for me. I made many unforced errors. I could feel that my whole body was quite stiff and my mindset wasn’t very good, my nerves just kept kicking in every time I missed. I lost quickly with a score of 5:11. The first half of the second game was well played and I got a three point lead. Unfortunately even when I added quality, my opponent hammered the ball back right down the line. That got me a little nervous, and back-to-back I missed a half-high ball and a chance ball. Even though I had a 10:8 lead, she changed up her serve and I just couldn’t catch up with her variety. I ended up getting behind and lost the second game. That gave me a big hit because I had a chance to win that game but I didn’t have good persistence, and now I was down 0:2. Now my only chance was to comeback three games in a row. The third game was nerve racking as I started ahead two to zero, but quickly lost three points in a row. My coach then decided to call a time-out. After the time-out, I told myself to just think of everything as starting over again. It seemed to help as I could properly execute strategies and add quality. I came back to win the third game. The fourth game went smoothly and I won by a large margin.
The fifth and final game was tilting to my side until my opponent called a time-out. After that, my three point lead was gone with two good shots from my opponent and one chance ball missed by me. It was an extremely nerve racking experience. I was so nervous, every ball that I won was a huge relief. At 9:9 I got a bit lucky and made my opponent start lobbing. After the match my coach told me that he was really nervous when he saw the high ball, because before this critical point I had already missed two high balls throughout the match. I felt the same at the moment of the shot, but fortunately for me my opponent was quite nervous as well. Her lobs were very short, which made them easier to smash. The winning point was a nice rally. I made continuous forehand attacks and was able to give a good angle for the match. After winning the bubble match I let out a shout of relief. It was hard to believe that I actually made the team, and I was very excited and happy.
After making the team there was a ranking tournament for positions within the team. I played a pips player for my first match. If I won I would be top six, but if I lost I would only get 7th or 8th place. My opponent was two years older than me. Even though the final score was a 3:2 victory for me, most of the points were short as there were no long rallies. I had made it into the top six! But by that time I was very tired and my mind was almost starting to float, and I lost my next match. Then, in my final match I managed to get myself back together and win for fifth place on the team.
At the end of the whole competition me, my mom, and my coach all were happy. It definitely was a successful competition. I am very thankful that my team came and rooted for me in the bubble match. I also want to give a big thanks to Butterfly, Cathay Insurance, the Song Shan boys’ high school team, and the Cheng Zheng junior high school team players and coaches for all their help.
We didn’t stay to the end of the tournament because we were really tired and ready to go. Mom, Coach, and I got our stuff in the car and Mom drove us back home. After we dropped off the coach and got home, I managed to relax and watch one soap opera episode… after which I collapsed dead asleep into bed.
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