Wisconsin Eau Claire Team Brings Home Flavor
By Andy Kanengiser
Home cooking, a short drive to the venue and plenty of cheering fans on campus are some of the advantages for the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire table tennis team.
There are no worries about the weather or major travel expenses for the home team at the 2015 TMS College Table Tennis Championships.
Having the national championships come to his hometown has been a wonderful thing, says Derek Levin, 21, a Wisconsin Eau Claire senior in his 4th season on the table tennis squad. "It's really exciting. We've never had big programs here.''
A mathematics and Spanish major, Derek got to face players from some huge universities right off the bat. His first match was against a top player from UCLA. The Eau Claire resident got beat 3 games to zero. "It was a hard match,'' but at the same time, it was fun to go against one of the best, he said.
Levin says he's faced stiff competition before. The University of Wisconsin Eau Claire enrolls a little less than 11,000 students, but regularly plays table tennis with bigger schools like the University of Minnesota, some 90 miles away.
Facing Minnesota, a team that regularly plans in NCTTA regional and national championships, is "always a learning experience,'' Levin says. "We never beat them.''
There are eight players on the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire team. Some of the players enjoyed basking in the media spotlight this weekend. Local newspaper and TV reporters did stories featuring the Blue & Gold of Eau Claire.
Ben Morgan joined others with the city's Convention & Visitors Bureau to put in a bid for the tournament and is delighted the event is finally here.
As players from schools like Boston University, Princeton, Texas Wesleyan, Central Florida, Penn State and Michigan slammed Double Fish table tennis balls around, Morgan was thrilled to see Wisconsin Eau Claire's team join the action.
Landing the national tournament "is a feather in our hat,'' says Morgan, a sports sales manager with the convention bureau.
The city has hosted major sporting events before, including the U.S. Snowshoe National Championship in recent months.
Snow, but not snowshoes, made an unexpected visit to the city late Thursday evening, but sunny skies melted much of it by Friday morning. The April 10-12 tournament here is attracting about 250 players from colleges across the USA and Canada along with teams of volunteers.
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