Former Mercy athlete discovers passion for billiards

Brittany Mandell of Northampton was ranked among the top 20 women’s billiards players in the country.

Brittany Mandell loves the mental challenge of the sport.

When Mandell was a student at Bishop McGann-Mercy High School, she played basketball and soccer and also competed in track and field for the Monarchs. She liked the team-oriented nature of those sports.

But when Mandell, a 2005 graduate of the school and a former Riverhead News-Review female athlete of the year, was introduced to the game of pool by her friend, Anthony Cook, she developed a real passion for the sport.

“Anthony knew how to play and he taught me the basics of pool,” Mandell said. “I then moved to south Florida for a year and a half to spend some time with my grandfather, Paul Giuliano. I had no friends down there. I was in a new town, and I saw a flier from the American Pool Players Association. I figured it was a good way to learn and to also meet people, so I did it.”

Mandell, 23, a resident of Northampton, played a lot of pool in Florida. She said there are a lot of teams in south Florida, and the sport of pool or billiards can be played in many different styles (eight-ball, nine-ball, different size tables). It is the strategy of the sport that most intrigues Mandell.

“To win, you have to make sure the angles are right,” she said. “Each shot leads to the next shot. You also have to prevent the opponents from getting the winning shot. It is an intense mental sport.”

Mandell, who is in her final semester at Suffolk County Community College, is the president of the school’s billiards club. In July, she competed in the Association of College Unions International’s Billiards Tournament in Ann Arbor, Mich. She was the only community college student in the women’s division and was matched against some of the finest collegiate billiards players in the country. Mandell finished the tournament ranked among the top 20 women in the nation.

“I’m a pretty competitive person and I did well,” she said. “I wish I had done better. The difference in this tournament was I am use to playing people I know. You have an idea what kind of player they are.

“At this tournament, there were two people from each region, so you don’t know their game. It wasn’t the biggest tournament, but it was still nerve-wracking.”

Denny Teason, the adviser to the college’s billiards club, raved about Mandell’s competitive fire.

“While Brittany is friendly and an easygoing, laidback person, she is also a real competitor,” he said. “She gets fired up. I love to see that approach.”

Mandell was proud to represent her school.

“I was there by myself,” she said. “In south Florida, I was playing with a team. Our team did well. But this was just about me.”

Teason said Mandell “fell in love with the sport and ran with it.”

“Practice helps anyone, but with pool, you need a lot of practice,” he said. “It is not like baseball or basketball where there is a lot of action. Pool is a quiet setting. It is all about precision.”

Mandell is in the process of revamping Suffolk County Community College’s billiards club. “I am trying to build a foundation,” she said. “Billiards isn’t a very popular sport. I want to get people more aware of what a fun game it is. It is competitive, yet it is a leisure sport.”

It is a sport she plans on playing for a long time.

“While it is a dream of mine to play on a competitive level, it takes a lot of practice,” Mandell, a commercial art, advertising and photography major, said. “Even on the semi-pro level, the women practice 12 hours a day. It’s their job. I don’t have the time, but pool is in my life to stay.”