USA Table Tennis

Aug. 28, 1951--that's Alice's birth date. Which means that in the spring of 1963 Alice is 11 years old when she and father/coach Hal (U.S. #8 for the '51-'52 season) are runner-ups in Mixed Doubles in the Long Island Closed.

Two years later, 13-year-old Alice won the Women's Singles in that Long Island Closed--beating Tybie Sommer, formerly Thelma Thall, 1948 World Mixed Doubles Champion with Dick Miles and 1949 World Women's Singles semifinalist. Also in 1965 Alice was the #2 U-15 Junior Girl in the country behind Patty Martinez.

In 1966--though Tybie avenged her Long Island loss of a year earlier with a deuce-in-the-5th win--Alice was able to take home a bigger trophy by winning the U.S. U-15 Championship.

For the 1966-67 season she was ranked #13 among U.S. Women. By 1968 she'd moved up to #6.

At the 1968 USOTC's, 17-year-old Alice posted an impressive 21-3 record. So why was she crying in a telephone booth? Because she'd just been picked for the Munich World Championships. Word was that she was so excited she didn't know for a time she'd been playing with father Hal's look-alike Star Player racket rather than her own Hock. Mother Fran quickly acclimated to the craziness: "Alice hasn't left for Germany yet--and already I miss her."

At the 1970 Eastern's, Alice playing with her trademark pig-tails but without socks, and ("Oh, that was the WRONG shot!") shouting out no-no acknowledgements to self and Hal hovering in the background, beat Connie Sweeris in 5. Shortly after, in the quarter's of the National's against Wendy Hicks (Wendy would push, open to Alice's backhand; Alice would push, forehand counter any easy topspin), Alice, up 2-0 and 17-14, would seem to have the match well under control. But then Fate intervened. A New York player began practicing on an adjacent table, and Hal, father/coach extraordinaire that he was, protectively began exchanging words like fists with the offender--until Alice's concentration was broken. She misses...serves...three...pops...net balls--she knows not what she does, loses that game. Then she has match point in the 4th and can't win it. Then she's up 11-6 in the 5th and can't hold on. Hal is disconsolate, Alice is....

A new season--and for the fall Long Island Open Hal and Alice have reached an understanding. He has worked out signals for her, and from time to time, much to the consternation of umpire Cyril Lederman, he's ("31, Honey") shouting them out to her. But Alice has a mind and a voice of her own: "Oh, please hit the table, please," she plaintively cries--but her forehand doesn't go in, and she loses this final to Connie.

At the 1970 USOTC's, Alice with a 15-3record, is selected for the '71 World's. But for whatever reason she decides against going to Nagoya...and, surprise, on to Peking--and so misses the "Ping-Pong Diplomacy" trip of a lifetime.

She is, however, in Atlanta for the infamous '71 National's--and so is Hal. No use protesting the almost unplayable conditions--the poor lighting, the slippery floor--but the Draw, that's another matter. The Ranking Committee admits to a mistake, a compromise is reached, and the Women will depart from tradition by playing a semifinal round robin. Not that it does Alice much good--she loses to Connie, Wendy, and Barbara Kaminsky.

Some consolation in '72: the Chinese come on their reciprocal Tour to the U.S., and Alice gets to participate.

Alice didn't make our '73 World Team, but that didn't stop her from going abroad. In Feb. of '73, she and Janice Martin made up the Women's wing of our U.S. Team that attended the World University Championships in Hannover, West Germany. Here she beat the #7 Czech Pauknerova, and won games from notable European players--from future World Mixed Doubles Champion Bergeret of France (whom she'd been corresponding with since the Munich World's); from former USSR Champ Pogosova; from the Swedes Johansson (whom she lost to 22-20 in the 3rd) and Ericksson; and from the West German Hendricksen.

Apparently this experience was of great help to Alice, for a few months later, at the U.S. Open, she beat Judy Bochenski in 5 in the quarter's and Angelita Rosal in 4 in the semi's--after which she dashed off-court into her father's open arms...prematurely some cynics might say, for in the final she was beaten convincingly by three-time Champion Violetta Nesukaitis of Canada.

In 1974 Alice won the Eastern's over '73 U.S. World Team Member Sue Hildebrandt. But in '75, at the U.S. Open and again at the CNE, Alice ran afoul of visiting Yugo penholder Irena Cordas and her troublesome serves--lost to her -15, 15, 21, -19, -15 in the 8th's at Houston and -19, -15, 24, -22 in the semi's at Toronto.

In 1976 Alice again played in the World University Championships--this time in Hafia, Israel, where she gave the eventual winner, Korpa of Yugoslavia, her toughest match of the tournament.

Six months later, at our first U.S. Closed, Alice was still playing well. When she beat U.S. Junior Champ Kasia Dawidowicz, 26-24 in the 3rd, Hal was quickly on court to hug her, for again she'd made the U.S. World Team. Indeed, her 10-1 record was outstanding. She lost only to Insook--and this after she'd beaten her 21-6 the first game and was at an expedited 16-all in the 2nd!

No wonder she was chortling to the USATT E.C. (who'd put into effect an "ageist" rule among the Men that, if you were 22 or over, unless you finished first or second in the Trials, you weren't assured of making the 5-man Team). "You think I'm too old to play at 22," she said to them. "I'm 25 now and I've never played better." (Which I think was true.) "I feel good. I think I have a future in the game. I feel my table tennis life is just beginning."

At the '78 (West Germany, U.S., South Korea-attended) Invitational Goodwill Women's Games in Seoul and Busan, South Korea, and in '79, at Pyongyang, North Korea (where she covered the World's and what you might call "Ping-Pong Diplomacy II" for the Long Island paper Newsday), Alice would not get the local attention the Korean-born Insook and He-Ja Lee would, but that was o.k., she was not one to feel left out.

At the '79 Closed, Alice, who was now teaching at the prestigious Dalton School in Manhattan, seemed off to a good start in her quarter's match against Faan Yeen Liu, was up 20-13 in the 1st, only to lose that game and the next two as well. When she couldn't read the spin, her flat, angled-off hitting prowess was of no value.

At the 1980 Closed, Alice had a good 5-game quarter's win over Sheila O'Dougherty, but then lost to Judy in 4. Disappointingly, too, in the Team Trials, behind Sheila's 9-2 lead, there were four players tied with 8-3 records--and Alice, unless she could beat Judy two straight, would be the 5th place finisher via the games-won-and-lost tie-breaker. In the 1st, Alice was very tight until, down 19-14, she began playing aggressively, deuced it, only to finally lose it, 28-26. When she persevered to win the "meaningless" next two games, the crowd gave her a well-deserved ovation.

1981? At the Syracuse National Sports Festival, Alice again lost to Faan Yeen, the eventual winner, but she enjoyed herself. "This is the first time I've had the chance to talk to other athletes," she said--"learn what ice-skating or water polo or softball players are thinking and feeling. I've found out that all the athletes here can learn a lot about mental preparation from one another."

More fun at the USOTC's--for Alice, Insook, and Kasia were winners. And the fact that Alice went on to make the U.S. Team in an "off" year--that is, when there wasn't a World's--gave her the much appreciated opportunity to go to Santa Clara, Cuba in March of '82 for U.S.-Cuba matches and to enjoy, as she said, her hosts' warm hospitality. It was also nice to know that she could beat Baez and Armas, the best of the Cubans. Her teammate, Florida's Judy Tun, she praised as "an absolutely outstanding coach," one who should "always be chosen as the U.S. Coach when we travel." So much for Hal.

1982 continued to be a good year. As serene as if she were still floating peacefully in that hot air balloon somewhere over New York State, she had an early round (down 20-15 match point) 26-24-in-the-5th win over Diana Gee in the Sports Festival, and, having been awarded the bronze for Singles, went on to capture the gold in the Doubles with Thomasina Burke. Then she simply reached out a hand as it were for the Eastern Open title, relinquished to her by former Indian National Kalavathi Panda.

Alice also won the '82 North American Championship, for which she received a nice, hand-crafted pottery mug. Eric Boggan, the Men's winner, went on to Hong Kong where he won $2,300 in cash. You're a lawyer, Hal--argue the justice of that.

Again Alice made the U.S. Team (is anyone keeping count?). Deuce-in-the-3rd wins over both Takako Trenholme and Angelita Rosal-Sistrunk allowed her to finish 6-4 in the Trials for 3rd place. This helped her to be named Table Tennis's "Women's Amateur Athlete of the Year."

But wasn't she, at 31, ready to retire and raise a family?

Ah, she said, she was "entering a new mental stage in her career. I know it's happening," she said--"but [and this with a little laugh] it may be five or six years yet before I reach my peak." She laughed, but she was serious.

Two disappointments now, though, back to back. One, Alice thought she'd made the '83 Pan-Am Team, but the USOC insisted on limiting the eligible players in Caracas; so she couldn't play. And, two, when she got to the '83 Tokyo World's, her Klampar C4 racket she'd been playing with for 10 years was declared illegal! It didn't have the requisite ITTF marking on it (just JTTA).

How bring to an end this little summary of fame? Why not remember that, at 32, Alice finished 2nd to Insook in the '83 U.S. Closed Team Trials, that rather soon after she did marry Michael (her second husband), did have a child, David, and did retire....Only to return in 1990 to win the U.S. Open Women's Over 40's, to take home medals at the '91 National Sports Festival, to win the '91 U.S. Closed Over 40, to finish 4th in the '91 Olympic trials and receive a $2,500 Grant, to win the '93 U.S. Open Women's Over 40's....Only to retire again....

But for how long?...