Just a few years ago, Stephanie “Stef” Ding didn’t know what Spikeball was.
But when Ding visited the UNC Spikeball Club's booth as a first-year at Weeks of Welcome in Fall 2019, she was hooked. From there, the Cary, N.C. native joined the club and began attending open practices where she started to learn the fundamentals of the game.
“I started playing really casually and then one day the guys (in the club) were like, ‘Hey are you interested in competing?” she said. “And I was like, ‘Why not.’”
Ding represented Taiwan at Spikeball’s inaugural Roundnet World Championship in early September. However, her time on North Carolina’s competitive team has not been as smooth as it may appear.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ding has only competed in three tournaments with UNC’s team. Yet, that hasn’t stopped her from playing in events outside of those sponsored by universities.
In April, Ding joined forces with her twin sister — and N.C. State student — Tiffany “Tiff” Ding. The early competitions as a pair served as a stepping stone toward the sisters’ reunion to compete at the World Championships in Belgium.
“It’s really cool to be (Tiff’s) teammate,” Stef said. “It's cool that she saw me play Spikeball and then she got interested in it and now she’s pretty serious about it.”
Though the two are related, building up their in-game chemistry has been a struggle. Tiff said it took months to build the sister’s Spikeball bond due to scheduling conflicts.
“We were both the top women’s players at our respective schools, but it took us all the way until worlds to click, even though we started playing together in April,” Tiff said.