Ball in their court, bound for nationals
Southland’s leading table tennis players are ‘‘a force to be reckoned with’’ as they prepare for the New Zealand table tennis championships in Christchurch this month.
The region’s top 11 youngsters will be competing in junior and senior team and individual events at the competition against 320 players throughout the country from October 5 to 14.
The junior teams’ competition starts on Thursday and Southland will be represented in boys and girls’ under-11, 13, 15 and 18 grades.
The individual championships follow, with the seniors fronting up early next week.
Table Tennis Southland spokesman Daryl Holden said he had high hopes for the players.
They were ‘‘on a title-hunting mission’’, he said.
‘‘Traditionally, because of a lack of players and high intensity training partners to prepare, we have found the going pretty tough at the nationals, but this year there’s real excitement that we could win what has been an elusive junior title.’’
That title hope sits mostly with the squad’s youngest player, 11-year- old Andrei Casareo.
The gifted right-hander, who is originally from the Philippines, is top seed in the boys’ 11 years doubles with his Canterbury partner. He is also fourth seed for the singles.
‘‘If Andrei plays with his natural freedom and confidence then anything is possible.’’
Another player set to compete, Finn Holden, fresh off creating history by becoming the youngest player to win back-to- back Southland senior men’s singles titles, also has title aspirations.
He is seeded fourth in the under-15 boys’ doubles and third in the mixed doubles, while Maia Cavanagh is third seed in the girls’ under-15 doubles.
For the first time in many years, Southland would field a senior men’s team of Kelly Martin, Nathan Geraghty and Andrew Fleming.
‘‘It’s not going to be easy. It never is but with a touch of luck we could again show why, for a small association, Southland is a national table tennis force to be reckoned with.’’
Southlanders playing in the New Zealand Table Tennis Championships are: Andrew Fleming, Damian Mitchell, Caleb Duffy, Finn Holden, Andrei Casareo, Laura Geraghty, Maia Cavanagh, Kelly Martin, Nathan Geraghty, Barry Ellis and Shelley Smith.
Southland table tennis juniors Phantharawin Waniyapong, Laura Geraghty, Andrei Casareo, Maia Cavanagh and Lauryn Fleming and back Finn Holden. Four of the group will now try and win national titles.