By Andy Kanengiser
NCTTA Media Chair
Marvelous loops, awesome spins and tenacious defense are all part of the package for several college women's table tennis teams this season.
Their amazing skills will be showcased at the 2017 TMS collegiate table tennis championships in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Schools like Texas Wesleyan University, Princeton, UCLA, California-Berkeley, Ohlone College and Texas are all bringing elite teams to the games April 7-9.
The NCTTA's biggest tournament of the year is attracting several dynamic women who packed their paddles for Team USA at the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
Practicing on the West Coast in recent weeks, Cal's women's team travels to Wisconsin stronger than ever. Players include Lily Zhang who took a year's break to train for Team USA. A 20-year-old psychology major from Palo Alto, California, Lily hopes to represent the USA on the world table tennis circuit.
Cal women include Prachi Jha, a freshman from Milpitas, California. The 19-year-old took a year out of high school to compete professionally overseas. Rounding out the stellar team: Erica Minh-Chan Tran and Ellen Hwang, who each played the sport at a high level for a decade.
The smart Cal women pound the books when they're not slamming table tennis balls. Tran, 21, is a molecular cell biology major from Saratoga, California. Ellen, 22, is an economics major from Thousand Oaks, California.
"All of us are good friends and bonded together through our team,'' says Erica. "We practice together and also help coach beginners in our club. We hope that our teamwork and camaraderie will help us reach the finals for the women's teams competition this year.''
Other bright spots along the West Coast include the UCLA women's table tennis team (pictured here). The squad consists of: Haloin Fang of San Francisco, Jinging Nie of Wuhan, China, Gretchen Tan of Malaysia and Isabel Chu of Milpitas, California. The Lady Bruins always bring their "A game'' to tournaments. The UCLA students are pumped about coming to Nationals.
"We can't wait to see our friends from other universities,'' says Chu, 19, who seeks to become a physical therapist.
Ohlone College is another potent California team making the road trip to the Dairy State tournament. It will be the first time for the Ohlone women's team. "We have been practicing a lot to prepare for the Nationals,'' says standout player Ying Wang. She's the team captain, founder and president of the school's table tennis club.
Ohlone is a two-year community college that saw its coed team impress fans at the 2016 nationals in Round Rock, Texas. In its initial season, Ohlone players turned in amazing performances against veteran teams in 2016.
A 23-year-old from China's Jilin Province, Ying Wang wants to pursue the sports business as her career choice. She's considering a transfer to schools like UC Berkeley next season. The business economics major will be an asset wherever she goes.
The always-powerful Texas Wesleyan University women's table tennis team remains a paradise of star coaches and players. The list of notables on the Fort Worth campus includes Jasna Rather, who oversees the table tennis program. She's joined by an experienced staff of coaches, including Anastasiia Rybka, Doru Gheorghe ( head coach for the women's team), and Keith Evans.
Whether it is the superb Lady Rams table tennis squad, including two Team USA members or wonderful players at other campuses, Rather and Gheorghe say fans will see incredible performances by women in Wisconsin. Jennifer Wu is one of the Texas Wesleyan stars who shined as a Team USA member during the Olympics in Rio in 2016.
Some of the women coming to Wisconsin will focus only on NCTTA singles competition. They include Texas A&M graduate student Susana Leon Caceres. For the native of Columbia, it marks her second trip to the Nationals. Susana loves doing research and her studies at Mary Kay O'Conner Process Safety Engineering Center at Texas A&M. But the Texas A&M Aggie is passionate about table tennis, too. "The experience during the NCTTA's 2016 Nationals was excellent.''
Excellent is one word that nicely sums up the athletic skills of the women playing table tennis at the 2017 college championships.
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