Mike Muldoon never expected the Cathedral High School Billiard Club to become what it is.
The club is coming off its best school year with 15 members, including its first three qualifiers for the Billiard Education Foundation’s 28th annual Junior National 9-Ball Championships.
Back in 2002, Muldoon was a second-year religion teacher who was ready to try his hand at moderating an extracurricular activity. He said he “wanted to do something I would have fun with, too.”
“I always enjoyed playing pool,” he recalls. “I did not think they would go for it, but Principal Sister Elizabeth Graham green-lighted it.”
Muldoon anxiously awaits the 2016-2017 school year, which will feature two additional billiards tables at the girls’ school.
“We’re really excited about the new year,” Muldoon said. “We enjoy the spirit of competition, and I can say all the while we had fun doing this.”
The club will now practice and compete with three billiards tables in the school building. Just a year ago, the school received its first table after practicing at billiards clubs in New York City in previous years.
“It’s amazing,” said Eliana Rodriguez, a junior at Cathedral. “I’m just so used to the one and can’t believe there are going to be two extra ones. It’s amazing how people want to support us, and I find it very inspiring.”
Five club members graduated in June, but Muldoon is hopeful the club will start the year with 20 members due to the new tables and the club’s success last year.
“Now we’ve been to nationals and did well there, it’s another feather in the cap for the club. It should be another attraction for the club,” said Muldoon, who receives assistance from professional pool player and tutor Mark Finkelstein.
Eliana was one of the three Cathedral students competing in the girls’ 18-and-under division at junior nationals in July in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg, Ill., along with schoolmates Arianna Dumeng and Kharmalina Tong. The girls played opponents in singles matches, with the winner being the first person to win five games of 9-ball.
“I was so nervous and scared,’’ said Eliana, who placed in the top 20 for the best Cathedral finish. “I knew if I focused on my nerves, I would not enjoy the game. I calmed down and enjoyed being there. To experience this with kids from all over the country was mind-blowing. To have two other players from our club and my teacher with me was amazing.
“It was intimidating, too. We were playing girls who had competed for eight or nine years. It’s great to see what you learn and can improve upon.
“It’s a challenging game—that’s one of the best parts about it...You need to have a strategy and plan your shots,” she said. “When you’re lining up your shot, you’re planning your next few shots.”
With the successful year behind them, Muldoon and his players are preparing for 2016-2017, starting with the club’s first meeting in September. The club will compete at the state qualifier in May 2017 with hopes of qualifying players for junior nationals.
“I just can’t wait to get started,” Eliana said. “I’m asking so many people to join our club. The game is not only fun. You meet new friends and learn an amazing game.”