Duke Brings Talented Team to 2015 Nationals
By Andy Kanengiser
NCTTA Media Chairman
Sports fans across America know the Duke Blue Devils are riding high as the No 1 team in college hoops.
Thanks to a superb group of freshmen bound for the NBA, Duke defeated the Wisconsin Badgers in the NCAA championship in April. It meant a 5th national title for legendary Coach K.
Duke table tennis doesn't generate nearly the media buzz like the guys on the hardwood. Still, they have an extraordinary squad on the 14,500-student Durham, North Carolina campus.
The potent Duke squad is led by graduate student Stephanie Sun, a 23-year-old biostatistics major from China. Prior to the 2015 TMS College Table Tennis Championships in Wisconsin, Stephanie was ranked as the 6th best women's collegiate table tennis player in North America.
The Duke team is boosted this year by the addition of freshman Ying Ni. The bright 19-year-old music major was born in China, but lives in Canada.
Duke's strong academic programs, not table tennis, attracted her to the school in the heart of the Research Triangle in North Carolina. But she was aware of the school's table tennis team, and sent an email to the club's president to say she's excited to be on her way to Duke.
Ying Ni remains pretty serious about her favorite Olympic sport and keeps the same focus on academics. While key matches were going on at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire she stayed busy studying in a quiet place nearby with her teammates at the recreation center.
As for table tennis, the Duke freshman plays the game with passion from start to finish. Ni is ranked No. 13 of the women players in the April 10-12 tournament in Eau Claire. She and Princeton University standout Shirley Fu, 19, are friends and teammates on Team Canada. Shirley is an operations research and financial engineering major at Princeton and resident of the Province of British Columbia.
Duke's team has other table tennis stars on the roster,including Grace Li, 19, a biochemistry major and creative writing minor. The sophomore from Houston, Texas plans to attend medical school. Li attended Oxford University in England last summer.
Academics are "not terribly difficult at Duke,'' Li said during a break from her studies and games Friday afternoon. "But you need to practice time management.''
Other top-notch players on the Duke squad include Jeremy Lai, 20, a native of Hong Kong studying neuroscience. Like lots of Duke students, Jeremy is a big-time fan of Coach K and the university's super basketball team. "Duke winning the national championship was huge,'' he said.
Landing a spot in the 2015 TMS championships in Wisconsin, is a big deal, too, for Duke table tennis.
The 2015 TMS College Table Tennis Championships is hosted by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and the Visit Eau Claire and is one of the premier table tennis tournaments in North America featuring 6 events: Men’s and Women’s Singles and Doubles, and Men’s/Coed Teams, Women’s Teams. The event is sponsored by TMS International, Double Fish, Joola and PepPod.
Players and spectators alike will enjoy a jam-packed weekend of table tennis at the TMS College Table Tennis Championships. The event starts Friday April 10th and continues through Sunday April 12th at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus.
The National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA) is a non-profit organization established exclusively for promoting the sport of table tennis at the college level. As the national governing body for college table tennis in the United States and Canada, NCTTA organizes intercollegiate competition throughout North America. www.nctta.org
About USA Table Tennis
Headquartered in Colorado Springs, USATT is the national organizing body for table tennis in the United States, serving 9,000+ members and nearly 300 clubs. USATT sanctions 200+ events a year including the US Open and US Nationals. USATT is affiliated with the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), as well as the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). www.usatt.org