Cities Collide in Ping Pong Tournament for the Ages

On the Thursday after February break, the Malden High Ping Pong Club traveled to Winchester High for a friendly tournament. The tournament was split into a group stage and an elimination round with Malden senior Jason Chen playing against Winchester sophomore Luke Molloy. In the end, Molloy would best Chen in a thrilling sudden death 15-13 win. 

After arriving and setting up in a corner of the gym, the competitors, seven from both schools, were broken up into two groups of seven with a mix of players from both schools in each bracket. Each player then played a best of three, first to eleven, match against every other player in their group. The four highest-scoring competitors from each group then moved on to the knockout stage. Due to time constraints, all knockout games were only first to 11 points. 

By chance, the top eight in the final stage were perfectly split with four players from Malden and four from Winchester. This allowed for the quarterfinals to all be Malden against Winchester. However, senior Jason Chen was the only Malden player of the four to make it past the first round. With all of Malden’s hopes now resting on one player, Chen would need to win his next two matches to take home victory for Malden. 

“I was hoping to play Archer [Ou] in the finals, but he lost in round one.” remarked Chen. “I feel like there's a little pressure on me, like everyone’s watching me now.” Despite the pressure, Chen remained confident, “They can't return [my serve] correctly, so I just get a free forehand and a chance to end the point.”

Chen’s first match was against a player he had previously beaten in the group stage two games to none. In this case, no upset was to be had, and Chen won handily with a quick 11-4 match. 

In the finals, Chen faced underdog Winchester sophomore Luke Molloy whom Chen had previously beaten in the group stage two games to zero. In addition, Molloy was tied for the lowest group stage score in the elimination round. Comparatively, Chen was the only player to win all of their group-stage games. 

The final game began quickly, and in a rapid-fire series of points, Molloy found himself down 4-1. However, some good smashes from Molloy and mistakes from Chen soon brought the game to a tied 5-5. Unforced errors would continue to plague Chen as the score went back and forth. Then, Chen found himself in an 8-10 deficit, one point away from losing the whole match. As Malden fans watched on with bated breath, Chen brought the game back to 10-10. Now, the game would enter a sudden death win-by-two rules: the first player to win two points in a row wins the tournament. The game lasted only a few points longer, and with two good smashes in a row, Molloy took home the win for Winchester 14-12.

“It was really fun. A little bit of a shock,” Molloy expressed after the win. He also expressed gratitude for his captains Sam and Evan.“He taught me everything I know.” 

Ping Pong Club Advisor Mark Gagnon indicated positive opinions on the individual structure of the tournament as opposed to a more team-based tournament: “It wasn’t a traditional match, but I thought this was a nice way that allowed everyone to play each other once.” He also communicated gratitude to Winchester for setting up the event, “I met with their coach and said ‘let’s play’ and she said ‘absolutely’ and it was that simple.”

Ping Pong Club Captain Cheryl Joe Pidakala also held appreciation of the format, “We got to play almost everybody, it was fun.” He also noted some young stars of the Malden team: freshman Mogos Ghile and sophomore Kwan Wo Li, “I’m really happy to see [Ghile] perform and grow,” adding, “Incredible performance by Kwan Wo, I have no words.” Overall, Pidakala was glad to see improvement from the team as a whole. He attributed the team’s success to the bond between teammates and support, “everyone is getting inspiration from each other.”

For more information on the Ping Pong Club, feel free to contact Captain Pidakala at and Coach Gagnon at

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