Women Bring Star Power to College Table Tennis

By Andy Kanengiser

NCTTA Media Chairman


Ariel Hsing, Shirley Fu and Erica Wu are awesome table tennis players at Princeton. The same holds true for standouts Lily Zhang at California-Berkeley and Anastasiia Rybka at Texas Wesleyan.


All five incredible female athletes bring star power to the 2015 TMS College Table Tennis Championships in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.


While men overshadow women in the sports universe, table tennis tournaments at colleges across the USA and Canada see a growing number of top-notch females competing, says NCTTA President Willy Leparulo.


Players like Hsing of San Jose, California and Zhang of Palo Alto, California have competed on the 2012 U.S. Olympic table tennis team. They are expected to gain spots on the USA squad for the 2016 games in Rio.


Rybka, 22, comes to Texas Wesleyan this season with solid credentials as a member of the Junior National Team in the Ukraine, TWU Rams coach Jasna Rather says proudly. She arrived in the USA last summer and is earning a master's in education at the Fort Worth school, a longtime college table tennis powerhouse. Anastasiia is a bright native of Kiev who speaks pretty good English.


On the West Coast, table tennis remains a big part of Ellen Hwang's life as a terrific player at the University of California-Berkeley. But the 20-year-old economics major puts her education first."My main focus is school - my ping pong career is on hold.''


For the Cal Bears, football and basketball attract far more media attention, money and fans than club sports like table tennis. It causes Ellen and her Cal teammates to go out and raise cash by training beginners. "With our college team everything is on our own.''


As for the future, Hwang sees a growth spurt for women's table tennis and other collegiate sports."A lot more girls at a younger age are playing table tennis,'' she said, while the marathon of matches continued at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.


"For a while there was a stigma that girls shouldn't be too athletic, and it's more of a boys thing. But our culture is changing,'' adds Ellen, a Thousand Oaks, California resident.


Last year, Hwang and the California women were good enough to finish No. 2 in team competition at the 2014 TMS college championships in Monroeville, Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh. The Cal ladies are bringing their "A game'' to the Wisconsin tournament in April.


Table tennis is on the upswing for University of Michigan women's players. They come to the 43,000-student Ann Arbor campus from China and Taiwan where table tennis is king. While the sport isn't nearly as popular as Wolverines football or hockey,table tennis is drawing more women, says Liren Guo, 20, a native of China.


But the books, not table tennis paddles are always a bigger priority for Michigan players. "You need  to study at our school first,'' says Liren, 20, a psychology major. Teammates from Taiwan like information science graduate student Sherry Chu and economics grad student Angel Chen, both agree.


The power of women's table tennis was clearly evident on a national stage Saturday. Princeton stars Shirley Fu and Erica Woo edged a men's doubles team from the University of Minnesota, Ben Kubesh and Kris Sabas in five games. Fans cheered loudly for both sides. 


"We lost 11-9 in the 5th. We were elated with how everyone played,'' said John Tranter, the Minnesota team faculty advisor."It was unexpected that we would get this far. Princeton is an amazing team - one of the top five.''


And extraordinary women players are leading the fight for the Princeton Tigers this season.

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