NANTICOKE – The air was filled with the signature sound of the ball hitting the paddle as the Keystone States Games table tennis tournament provided fast-paced action and big drama at the Nanticoke Table Tennis Club on Saturday.
Jack Livingston, the club manager, said the club has been open since the early 2000s, and the action is always intense when matches start.
“We’ve been to a few different places, we were at Odyssey Fitness,” Livingston said. “We have some amazing players here today.”
A total of 23 table tennis competitors entered the Games, many from Lehigh Valley, all dressed in matching brown shirts from Lehigh Valley Table Tennis.
Competitors were separated by age groups and the tournament also featured doubles and mixed doubles competitions in addition to the singles portion of the event.
The location of the Table Tennis Club on Line Street is not too big, but the small limits created a remarkable atmosphere as the tournament began on Saturday morning.
Four tables were set up in the middle of the hall, with room for a few spectators along the back wall and to the side of the hall. This way the players had a lot of leeway and depth to give themselves an extra split second to react to an opponent’s shot.
The action was fascinating, to put it in a sense – exchanges that went on and on, shots that couldn’t be done from crazy angles, and some serves that didn’t seem to conform to the laws of physics.
Havertown native Frank Roth competed on the first table, losing his first game of the day in a hard-fought competition.
“I’ve been playing for something like 46 years,” Roth said. “I play a lot at the Trolley Car Table Tennis Club in Philadelphia.”
One of the good things about table tennis, according to Livingston, is that it’s a game where age doesn’t matter.
“No matter how old you are, anyone can beat anyone at this sport if they’re good enough,” he said. “If you were to come here to play for the first time, I know I could beat you even if you are younger.”
At the back of the room, Anita Fazakas and Lisa Liu, the two participants of the tournament, faced each other.
Fazakas said she discovered the game at a young age and even met her late husband through table tennis.
“I used to play summers at Northampton County Community College,” she said. “After my husband passed away, I needed something to focus on, so I started playing more.”
Fazakas met his match against Liu, 24, who also came from near the Allentown area to play at the Keystone Games.
Liu said she had been playing since she was a “child” and did not face Fazakas, but she was also able to play a game against her own mother, who had also made the trip to Nanticoke.
Liu did not hesitate to tell a reporter about the outcome of his match with his mother.
“We played very tight,” Liu said, “But I beat her.”