by Andy Kanengiser
NCTTA Media Chair
The Land of Ten Thousand Lakes, Minnesota is also proud of its rich table tennis landscape.
When the 2017 national championships roll around in early April, the University of Minnesota will again bring a pretty diverse team to the games in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.
Two years ago, the Minnesota Gophers sent a nice mix of players from around the globe to the NCTTA competition on the same Wisconsin-Eau Claire campus. There were Minnesota players from Michigan, Minnesota, China, India, and Nepal.
In 2015, Minnesota table tennis player Kris Sabas remained focused on stepping up his game as a 30-year-old philosophy major on the Twin Cities campus. He began playing the sport as a nine-year-old.
These days, the Minnesota graduate is wrapping up his first season as the team's coach. The Minneapolis resident can't wait to see his Maroon and Gold team perform on the biggest collegiate table tennis stage in North America April 7-9.
"We have quite a diverse team,'' Sabas, 32, says. Players from around the planet blend well with homegrown talent from Minnesota and other nearby states.
Top male and female players on the Minnesota squad are Li Pu, a graduate student from China, and Yuliya Ryabova, a freshman from Kazakhstan.
"We pride ourselves on the depth and family-like environment of the club,'' Sabas says. "Even if we don't win the nationals, we certainly hope to have the most fun.''
There's nothing wrong with a little fun for the visiting Minnesotans.
In 2015, the team consisted of splendid American players like Ben Kubesh of Austin, Minnesota, who excelled on the high school level in his native state. John Tranter, then a 40-year-old electrical engineering graduate student from Rolla, Michigan, was the team's elder statesman. Kubesh graduated, but Tranter remains actively involved with the team today.
While the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire team will play on its home court as the host school, Minnesota-Twin Cities sits only 90 minutes away. Enrolling nearly 49,000 students, Minnesota is a Big Ten School with a big heart for table tennis.
Minnesota is starting to become a table tennis hotbed with high school championships and competitive leagues. "Table tennis in Minnesota is growing and we are finally reverting back to having a team league'' that begins this spring, Sabas said. "We look forward to the competitive community we can create in Minnesota.''
Kris loves coaching the Minnesota team. But Kris also cherishes his full-time job at Nonin Medical. Year-round, he works hard in the business development group at the Minneapolis-based company. His career takes up quite a bit of his time.
But Sabas remains deeply committed to seeing the Minnesota team make some noise at the NCTTA championships in the Dairy State. He promises to return to coach the Gophers table tennis squad next season. "My plan is and will always be to be involved as long as they will allow me.''
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