Ivy Leaguers Paddle Way to Championship Games

By Andy Kanengiser
NCTTA Media Chair
Plenty of players from Ivy League packed their paddles for the 2017 championship games in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
The Princeton Tigers, the Penn Quakers, the Big Red of Cornell, Brown players from Rhode Island, a Yalie, and others are in the house at the McPhee Center.
 And, of course, between games April 7-9, they are focused on their computers to keep up with rigorous academic studies.
For Princeton Tigers, practices happen twice a week at Dillon Gym on the historic campus in New Jersey. When they're not slamming hollow white balls, the seven men and women on the Ivy League team are hitting the books.
Princeton player Sam Bernstein, 20, of Los Angeles is a computer science major making his first trip to the NCTTA nationals in the Chippewa Valley.
Sam is joined by smart teammates like senior Shirley Fu, 21, of Vancouver, British Columbia wearing orange and black uniforms. The table tennis ace from Canada is studying operations research and financial engineering. That sounds and is pretty challenging.
Danny Gitelman, 25, of Brooklyn, New York, is enrolled in Princeton's graduate school. He's studying math at the school founded in 1746. He's not planning to make a career out of table tennis. "We all brought our computers.''
Ivy League rivalries are pretty intense in sports like football and basketball. Harvard-Yale clashes every year are historic on athletic fields. Table tennis, not so much.
It's a "different culture'' with table tennis, with school rivalries in the Northeast not nearly as intense, Bernstein says.
So the cheering noise levels from table tennis fans seldom gets higher when Princeton is battling Penn, Cornell, or Brown.
A civil engineering major at Cornell, senior Nick Coyle is just happy to be paddling with the nation's best at the college championships. Being away from the Ithaca, New York campus is a little less stressful for the Cornell players this weekend. They are on Spring Break at the moment.
"This has been a very fun experience,'' says Coyle, 22, a Philadelphia, Pennsylvania resident who's now job hunting.
It's been a cool experience to watch and compete against table tennis stars from Texas Wesleyan, Mississippi College, Lindenwood, Ohlone, Duke, California, Michigan and other schools for the Ivy Leaguers.
Coyle, who graduates from Cornell in May, wants to eventually attend graduate school. He's still got one year left of NCTTA eligibility and could return to the championships down the road. He played at the NCTTA championships in Eau Claire two years ago and at Monroeville, Pennsylvania in 2014.
How did things go for the Cornell player.Nick fought hard but lost 11-9 in the fifth game of his match with UCLA standout David Zeng, An environmental science major at UCLA, Zeng, 20, is an environmental science major from Oakland, California.
The University of Pennsylvania brought a 5-member contingent from its Philadelphia campus. A grad student in public administration, Penn player Liwang Huang, 23, grabbed a yogurt for breakfast at the Clarion hotel lobby before catching the shuttle bus to the tournament venue Saturday morning. The native of China is making her first trip to the national championships. "We've been training very hard.''
Founded back in 1764 in Providence, Rhode Island, Brown sent a large delegation to the tourney, including a stellar women's team. They are led by senior Nancy Zhou, a chemical biology major from Dublin, California. Three Brown freshmen round out the squad. They are:  Zixi Zhu, a cognitive science major from Beijing, China, Renny Ma, a neuroscience major from Lenexa, Kansas and Ellen Jiang of Hinsdale, Illinois. A 19-year-old, Ellen is studying computer science.
With major sports teams in other conferences from the Big Ten to the PAC 12, the Big 12 and ACC, schools like Northwestern, Michigan, Duke, Minnesota, Wisconsin, California-Berkeley, Texas and UCLA are well-represented here. All of the table tennis teams brought outstanding student-athletes. About 260 players and coaches are putting in long hours at the NCTTA tournament ending Sunday. Wisconsin-Eau Claire serves as the host school.

The 2017 TMS College Table Tennis Championships is hosted by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and the Eau Claire CVB 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, Gerflor, Double Fish

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 7th and continues through Sunday April 9th. 


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