Team USA preps with Lions for international junior billiards competition

Justin Martin, a 19-year-old Team USA billiards player from North Carolina, prepares for a shot in the Lindenwood Billiards Arena.
Photo by Matt Hampton.

MINA SAN NICOLÁS LEYVA | Reporter

MATT HAMPTON | Sports Editor

Team USA came to campus last weekend with its captain, professional pool player Allison Fisher, to train for the Atlantic Challenge Cup with Lindenwood billiards head coach Mark Wilson.

On Friday, Fisher arrived at Lindenwood to coach the junior players selected to travel to Las Vegas in November to compete against the best Team Europe has to offer.

Fisher was selected by the Billiard Congress of America to head the American team. She came to the U.S. from England when she was 27 years old to join the women’s professional tour.  Over her snooker and billiards career, Fisher has won over 80 professional titles including 11 world titles. 

The age limit to compete in the Atlantic Challenge Cup is 19 years old.  Besides Fisher, Team USA’s squad consists of two 19-year-olds, two 18-year-olds, one 16-year-old and one 13-year-old. Four of them are boys, and two are girls. 

“We’ve got a mix,” Fisher said about the players’ ages. “And the good thing about that is that we’ve got players for the future, like the young players will be there probably two or three years.”

One of the 18-year-olds on Team USA is April Larson, a freshman at Lindenwood, who hopes to end Team Europe’s eight-year winning streak. 

“I think this team can do it,” Larson said. “This is a different vibe than we have ever had. So like before, we either felt like we were competing against each other or everyone was just so tense and wanted to do their best, here we are just playing while having fun, Mark makes it fun, Allison makes it fun, but it’s a focused fun.”

The other USA players participating in the Atlantic Challenge Cup are Kaiden Hunkins, Michelle Jiang, Justin Martin, Joey Tate and Shane Wolford.

“This team here – really good, but also what the USA needs is more coaches like Mark [Wilson] and a really good instructional program, because in the past years they’ve been beaten by Europe, and they have good structure and tournaments over there, so I think we’ve got a lot of great players, but they need a little more experience,” Fisher said.

Wilson has been the head coach of the billiards team since it started in 2012 and has been committed to creating a top-level program. Two years after the program was created, Lindenwood won its first Collegiate Pocket Billiards national championship title and would go on to repeat the accomplishment the next four years in a row.

Fisher said she decided to train at the Lindenwood Billiards Arena because of its serious atmosphere and professional quality.

“I’ve been here many times,” Fisher said. “When you are in Vegas, when they’re going to be playing, there’s going to be one table in the arena, it’s going to be silence, it’s going to be pressure. And when you are playing for a team, it’s a little bit more pressure than playing for yourself, so what I want is an atmosphere that you can sort of copy, and to me, this brings that.”

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