This past weekend, my friend Henry Kuck and I participated in the 2018 Groton Foosball Tournament. We represented our dorm, Nelson’s, and were competing for a Dunkin’ Donuts gift card and points toward the Groton Games. The Groton Games are an annual competition between the dorms that encapsulate competitions ranging from minute-to-win-it challenges to tournaments in foosball, Spikeball, and other lawn games. When we saw the email advertising the tournament, Henry and I jumped at the chance to represent the mighty Nelson’s Dorm in a sporting event that so perfectly combined strength, elegance, and skill.
As the days ticked by and the tournament grew closer, our stomachs began to churn with a mixture of anticipation and nervousness. We stuck to our carefully regimented diet, making sure to consume lots of carbs and minimize fat. Our practice routines grew more intense, with half-hour practices quickly giving way to more intense, hour-long sessions. On the eve of the tournament, we both gathered in his room to discuss our strategy and develop a successful game plan for the big day. I struggled to fall asleep the night before, eagerly anticipating the festivities that would commence the following day.
In a flash, all of the planning and preparation that we had done in the days leading up were on the line as we kicked off our opening match of the tournament against Leroy’s Dorm. Our opponents were certainly not slouches, and they combined the monster presence of a 6′ 7″ Joey O’ Brien with the guile and quick thinking of the offensive weapon that is Nate Salander. Rather than cowering in the corner, however, we gritted our teeth and put the ball in play, confident in the chemistry that we had built from countless hours in the dorm together. The ball dropped in and we were instantly on top, pinning the Leroy’s representatives back deep into their own half with a collection of blocks, shots, and parries. Finally, a breakthrough came and all of our pressure paid dividends, with Joey coughing the ball up right in front of his net and my center striker on hand to prod home and give us a precious lead. After the breakthrough, the goals began to rain in, and by the midway point in the match, we had a 5–3 lead.
At this point, my wrists began to grow weary, and it took all of my strength to continue playing and resist the urge to let go of the rods. That perseverance paid off however, and we had a 9–6 lead after ten minutes of play. If we could just get that one final goal, we would move on to the semifinals. Finally, a chance arose and this time it was Nate who mistakenly played the ball back into his own end. I was on it in an instant, rotating my right wrist with force and precision in an effort to guide the ball into the far corner. We heard a familiar “thwack” and watched as the ball dropped down into the black wooden net. Shortly thereafter, the celebrations began, with Henry and I high-fiving each other and shouting out chants of joy. We were moving on.
Round 2 pitted us against the prefects of Mr. Lamarre-Vincent’s Second Form boys dorm, Gus Vrattos and Brian Xiao. These two wily veterans had been around the sport for ages and had learned all of the sport’s tips and tricks. Everyone in the tournament knew that their style of play revolved around long, direct passes from the back and incessant pressure once they had moved the ball forward. We took a quick sip of water and readied ourselves for the contest. The game seemed to move in slow motion, with my rods sliding forward and back, propelling my players left and right. The ball ricocheted around the table, changing possession and direction as our arms flexed to propel this white orb. The goals began to come, and although we fought hard, the seniors’ experience eventually made the difference as we went down by a scoreline of 10–4.
We had given it our all, but in the end it just hadn’t been enough. Although we were devastated that we had been knocked out, we displayed admirable sportsmanship in congratulating our opponents and wished them the best of luck in the final. Then we walked out of the student center, already deep into conversation about what we would do differently next year. We will return, and there’s no limit to just how far we can go in the 2019 edition.