College Rivalry Takes Different Spin at NCTTA Championship

By Andy Kanengiser

NCTTA Media Chair

Florida State vs Florida remains one of America's biggest rivalries in college sports.

FSU Seminoles typically dislike Florida Gators. And UF folks usually don't care for Noles.

That fierce rivalry gets stepped up in Fall 2018 when the Florida Gators invade Doak Campbell Stadium for a football game on the Tallahassee campus. Fans on both sides circled the date, November 24. For the record, FSU won last year's contest 38-22 in Gainesville.

The table tennis rivalry between the two schools in the Sunshine State stays pretty fierce when games are being played. But off the court, FSU and UF players are good friends.

That was the case at the 2018 iSet national collegiate table tennis championships at the Round Rock Sports Center. FSU and UF players cheered for one another, ate meals together and enjoyed each other's company at the April 20-22 tournament near Austin, Texas.

"It's a rivalry one on one'' in table tennis games between UF and FSU, says NCTTA President Willy Leparulo.

But outside that intense game atmosphere, Leparulo, an FSU graduate, notices UF Gator players rooting for the Noles. And FSU players are encouraging the Gators to beat other table tennis teams.

That was the case in late February when players from both FSU and the University of Florida participated at the NCTTA South Regionals in Fort Worth.Post-game, several players from the two Florida schools, dined together at a Texas restaurant.

UF players like Suhaib Harraka, a native of Syria, and Ajinka Gaikwad a native of India, says some of their good buddies are FSU table tennis players.

Signed for men's singles at the Round Rock tournament, FSU's Ramy Noseir remains one of their favorite table tennis players on the Tallahassee campus. And he's a friend, too.

Harraka, who has family living in Tampa,Florida has spent four years on the UF Gators team. The 26-year-old senior won't let a perennial college rivalry stand in his way as he plays his favorite Olympic sport. "I love table tennis.''

Away from the table tennis venue, some longtime supporters of FSU (of the Atlantic Coast Conference) and Florida (of the Southeastern Conference) may continue to sharply disagree. It doesn't matter if the sport is football, basketball, baseball, tennis or soccer. The rivalry never goes away for very long.

Sharing the same passionate interest in table tennis helps break down barriers among these two Southern rivals.

Harraka also has bigger things on his mind as he prepares to apply to dental schools following his May graduation on the Gainesville campus.

Gaikwad, 26, is making plans to move to California to go to work after earning his graduate degree in computer science in a few weeks. He will pack his paddle, too.

The UF coed team put on a solid showing at the 2018 Nationals in Texas. UF entered the tournament seeded No. 11, but finished in 9th place.

FSU's Ramy Noseir had company at the tournament in Round Rock. FSU's Tyler Hayes joined him in men's singles contests.

Other colleges with big rivalries have put aside their differences lasting many decades to build friendships.

In the table tennis world, the University of Michigan table tennis team in recent years played rival Ohio State in a friendly pre-season tournament. Following the table tennis battles, players from both Big Ten schools shared a meal, enjoyed the fellowship and had fun.

The 2018 iSET College Table Tennis Championships is hosted by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and the Round Rock 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 iSET, Double Happiness, Gerflor, Double Fish and USA Table Tennis

Players and spectators alike will enjoy a jam-packed weekend of table tennis at the iSET College Table Tennis Championships. The event starts Friday April 20th and continues through Sunday April 22nd.

About NCTTA

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

Northwestern University Steps up Table Tennis Game

By Andy Kanengiser

Things are really looking up for the Northwestern University table tennis team.

In fact, this is the best season in Coach Ned Leuchtner's 10 years running the Wildcats squad. Back in its early days, the Northwestern table tennis team competed with the school's ballroom dancing club to find space to practice on campus.Fortunately, those struggles are over for the school in Evanston, Illinois.

These days the Wildcats team is well-known on and off campus in the Chicago area. Northwestern finished No. 2 in the NCTTA regionals recently behind powerhouse Lindenwood University of Missouri.

Prior to the 2018 iSet national collegiate table tennis championships in Round Rock, Texas April 20-22, Northwestern's coed team was ranked 19th in the nation.

In a nail biter of a doubles match at Friday's opening set of games at the Round Rock Sports Center, Northwestern fought back to edge the UCLA Bruins. Moments after escaping with a win ( 3 games to two), Coach Leuchtner was ecstatic with the performance of his talented guys.

"We were down, but then our No. 3 player Ryan Louie started killing it,'' Leuchtner said. "He hit shots hard.''

The strong performance by Louie, a 24-year-old technology and social behavior graduate student from San Diego, inspired his teammate. David Lee, 20, a Northwestern senior from Minneapolis, stepped up his game and the Wildcats emerged on top.

A bright industrial engineering major at the stellar Big Ten school, David Lee was elated. But there was little time to enjoy the April 20th triumph. There were many more matches to play in the Sports Capital of Texas.

Knocking off the 15th-ranked UCLA team was a nice accomplishment at the national championships in the Lone Star State. In tournaments earlier this season, Northwestern's coed squad defeated potent table tennis rivals like Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Excellent players helped Northwestern reach the nationals in the 2016 championships, also in Round Rock. The school finished No. 23 after its debut in the NCTTA's Big Dance of table tennis two years ago.

Leuchtner really doesn't need to do a big selling job to convince elite student-athletes to enroll at Northwestern. The school's first-class academic reputation worldwide remains off the charts. The many cultural attractions of the Chicago area and bright economy help, too. The frigid cold, ice and snow of the Windy City could be one negative factor during bitter winters for some.

Northwestern's entire coed table tennis team is solid. Other notable players include Edward Lin, a senior from Beijing, China. The 21-year-old is an economics major. Sophomore Guanhao "Peter'' Chen,21, an economics and math major, also hails from China where table tennis is king. JunLong "Jack'' Chi is a 24-year-old graduate student from China.

Besides crediting outstanding players, Leuchtner says an NCTTA pre-season coaches table tennis clinic last summer proved invaluable. It made him a better coach and helped Ned set goals.

His training as a table tennis coach didn't stop there. "You must be constantly learning and staying involved'' with the Olympic sport, he added.

Leuchtner, who works in the Chicago area for Comcast, knows a good deal about the game from the perspective of a former college player. Back in 1984, Ned battled his way to become Indiana University's table tennis champion on the Bloomington campus. Fast forward to 2018, and the veteran coach is helping Northwestern players advance their game.

The 2018 iSET College Table Tennis Championships is hosted by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and the Round Rock 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 iSET, Double Happiness, Gerflor, Double Fish and USA Table Tennis

Players and spectators alike will enjoy a jam-packed weekend of table tennis at the iSET College Table Tennis Championships. The event starts Friday April 20th and continues through Sunday April 22nd.

About NCTTA

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

 

    

Dream Run for Texas Wesleyan Double’s Team Ends

By Michael Reff

The Texas Wesleyan men’s double’s team of Shuai Wang and Jason Plog, both solid 2400 rated players, had two consecutive wins against tricky teams, before succumbing to the NYU powerhouse of Tom Feng and Adar Alguetti. Texas Wesleyan had three teams entered into this event, Shuai and Jason being seeded 10 and the dynamic duos of Jishan Liang/Jinxin Wang and Zhe Feng/Bruno Ventura Dos Anjos are seeded 1 and 2 respectively. Wang and Plog are conventional shake hand two winged attackers and they had an initial fright with their opening round against the Santa Monica underdogs of Ayush Kapoor (rating 2424) and Tiziano Aiello (2060).

Santa Monica had an ace under their sleeve: Ayush’s style is long pips on the backhand side of his paddle, but he uses it in an attacking manner. This makes him able to nullify or reverse the spin of any ball hit his way. Initially Wang and Plog won the first game, but then things got messy in the second game. They became very uncomfortable with the eccentric style of a high level long pips attacker. They lost the second game 8-11, but then they received valuable advice from their coach. In the third and fourth games, Texas Wesleyan switched up the strategy and served long dead balls to Ayush, rendering his already flat attacking style on the backhand useless. He continuously let fly ball after ball past the table and Texas Wesleyan ultimately secured a 3-1 win. “Texas Wesleyan stopped messing around and took it to town. Texas Wesleyan just went right through them,” observed NCTTA President Willy Leparulo. 

The Wang and Plog duo had a more comfortable time with the styles of Nathan Hsu and Rui Xu (seeded number 8) of the University of Maryland in the round of 16. All players were right handed and employed the shake hand grip, attacking on both sides of the paddle. However, as Mr. Leparulo noted, “Nathan Hsu is backhand oriented; his backhand is humongous.” The first game was a close one, Texas Wesleyan taking the lead early on at 6-2, 7-3, 8-4, and 9-5, but then Maryland started making a comeback with smarter serves. Texas Wesleyan though pulled it out for an 11-9 win. The second game was even closer, with points being traded off left and right by both sides. At 6-4 Maryland did a backhand serve that ended with a lucky netball winner for them. At 8-6, karma was served with a Maryland service error. Texas Wesleyan closed the second game with another 11-9 win. In the third game, Maryland and Texas Wesleyan battled it out back and forth all the way to 7-7, but ultimately Texas Wesleyan squeezed out the last four points, safely securing a 3-0 upset win to the quarterfinals.

Finally though, Wang and Plog had met there match in NYU double’s team of Feng and Alguetti, a 2016 Olympian and Men’s national team member respectively. The duo, although both right handed, featured a penhold player, Tom Feng, who has a strong reverse penhold backhand. This type of grip and style allows for the wide looping range of the forehand side, and a strong backhand side that used to be nonexistent for penhold players of the past. The NYU team swept the match 3-0 and ended a great run for the strong Texas Wesleyan team.

The 2018 iSET College Table Tennis Championships is hosted by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and the Round Rock 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 iSET, Double Happiness, Gerflor, Double Fish and USA Table Tennis

Players and spectators alike will enjoy a jam-packed weekend of table tennis at the iSET College Table Tennis Championships. The event starts Friday April 20th and continues through Sunday April 22nd.

About NCTTA

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

 

Maryland Saves a Potential Upset Loss through Mental Toughness

By Michael Reff

On ranking alone it would appear Maryland’s team of table tennis student athletes would blow their competition out of the water, but instead, a closely contended doubles’ match yielded a hard fought win for the University of Maryland Testudos.

Brandeis was a force to be reckoned with and according to their third seeded player Duong Nguyen, they weren’t surprised to be playing in the national’s even though ranked so low. He said “we practice two times a week Tuesdays at a club in Boston about 10-15 matches and on Thursdays at Brandeis.” They were well prepared to take on a formidable opponent such as Maryland.

The double’s tiebreaker match between Maryland and Brandeis was more in the favor of Maryland, because Nathan Hsu and Rui Xu have NCTTA ratings of 2513 and 2496 respectively, whereas Brandeis had Shengkai Feng, and Brian Gao, rated 2421 and 2070 respectively.  But, as any table tennis aficionado will be quick to observe, it’s not always about the individual ratings of players in a double’s match, but the overall synergy between the two players and how long they’ve practiced with each other.

Maryland clinched the first double’s game in the best 3-out-5 deciding match, but Brandeis quickly pulled some tricks out of their sleeve in game two. At 2-1, they fired an impressive side swiping block to climb to a 3-1 lead in the second game. Brandeis evened out the score to deuce with a light touch, finally eking out a 14-12 game two.

In the third game, mental toughness truly started to swing in Maryland’s direction. At first Brandeis was winning point after point arriving at 10-4, game count 1-1. But then momentum shifted, and Maryland saved six consecutive game points to even it out at deuce. At 11-11 Brandeis executed a beautiful forehand flip to take advantage again. Interspersed between all these excellent points, Nathan Hsu of Maryland emitted pumped up chos. A pushing war ended the deuce game in favor of Maryland up now 2-1 in sets.

In the fourth game, Brandeis fought back to get up 4-2 even though they were faltering in serves. A ridiculous return by Maryland at 4-5 evened the score out. At 7-5 Brandeis paused to offer advice to each but the next two points were won by Maryland. An ensuing service error by Maryland gave Brandeis the 7-8 advantage, and then at 9-8 Brandeis rapidly counter looped to make it 8-10. Brandeis took the final point of the game and the two teams were headed to a fifth-game decider.

In this final game, nerves and toughness were all that mattered. Again Brandeis claimed an early lead, executing some impressive points, including one at 7-2 when Maryland looped way off the table and Brandeis blocked it to the open court. At 8-2 things took a turn for the worse for Brandeis, and a timeout was called at 8-4. At 9-6 Brandeis attempted to flip but did not convert a point, and when things were tied up at 9-9, Brandeis shanked a ball. A crowd was starting to gather at this point, and at deuce Maryland employed one of their frequently used tricky backhand serves to take advantage over Brandeis. Finally, Maryland sealed the deal with a 12-10 win over their opponents.

A close team match was indeed fought hard by both sides, and mental fortitude was the buzzword of the day.

The 2018 iSET College Table Tennis Championships is hosted by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and the Round Rock 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 iSET, Double Happiness, Gerflor, Double Fish and USA Table Tennis

Players and spectators alike will enjoy a jam-packed weekend of table tennis at the iSET College Table Tennis Championships. The event starts Friday April 20th and continues through Sunday April 22nd.

About NCTTA

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

Northern Players Love Texas Table Tennis Tournament

By Andy Kanengiser

NCTTA Media Chairman

Removing ice off her frozen car windshield days ago in chilly Central Michigan was annoying for Sandy Chen.

"I don't like the freezing cold,'' said the 24-year-old Michigan State University graduate student.

It's late April, and the winter keeps hanging on for the northern half of the USA and Canada.Even in parts of the South,like Mississippi and Tennessee, the "spring'' was much colder than usual.

So escaping to the warmth of the iSet national collegiate table tennis championships in Texas was one way to leave old man winter behind. Sandy caught a flight from East Lansing, Michigan to the O'Hare airport in Chicago and finally to Austin, Texas to get away for a few days.

A Michigan State table tennis player, Sandy Chen is volunteering as an umpire at the NCTTA tournament April 20-22 at the Round Rock Sports Center. It's sunny and 70 degrees in the Texas city near the state capital of Austin.

That's perfect weather for the media information graduate student from East Lansing. Back home, it was snowing in Michigan. The previous day? It was freezing rain. Really,not much better for the former Michigan Wolverine who's now an MSU Spartan.

Signed up for this weekend's games at the NCTTA championships in sunny Texas was also a delightful getaway from frigid conditions for residents from upstate New York.

That was the case for women's singles player Dominique Canale, 24, of SUNY-Oswego. An MBA student who graduates in August, she brought her books with her favorite paddle to the Round Rock Sports Center.

Canale also works full-time as a project manager with the AXA insurance company. But the former NCAA Division II college tennis player carved out time to compete in her new sport of table tennis. Her boyfriend, Justin D'Antonio, an NCTTA division director in New York, got her started. (pictured above)

She loves the challenges, the spins, foot work, motion and other aspects of the fast-moving Olympic sport.

In the balmy spring air of Texas, the graduate of LeMoyne College in Syracuse, found plenty of interesting things to do, like visiting outdoor art galleries. Seeing thousands of bats flying around Austin's bridges provided an awesome sight for the New Yorker.

Hanging out in the Lone Star State, she said, was a nice switch from all the snow in New York.

The 2018 iSET College Table Tennis Championships is hosted by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and the Round Rock 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 iSET, Double Happiness, Gerflor, Double Fish and USA Table Tennis

Players and spectators alike will enjoy a jam-packed weekend of table tennis at the iSET College Table Tennis Championships. The event starts Friday April 20th and continues through Sunday April 22nd.

About NCTTA

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

 

Andy Nguyen Interviews Energize NCTTA Games

BY Andy Kanengiser

NCTTA Media Chairman

Bouncing around the Rock Rock Sports Center with a microphone in hand and big smile on his face, Andy Nguyen had a blast.

 Doing what he does best, Andy peppered NCTTA players with softball questions as a camerman recorded every moment. What's your favorite food? What's your school? What do you love about table tennis? What's your name?

Along the way, he quickly recruited volunteers like Brenda Nguyen (the Minnesota Division director) to ask a barrage of questions, too. "Are you single?,'' she asked one of the guys on the Lindenwood University table tennis team from Mexico. He's single and enjoys Mexican food.

 It was all in good fun on Thursday night as Andy Nguyen's media crew roamed around the modern arena to produce an entertaining "documentary'' of the 2018 iSet national collegiate championships.

Attracting 250 players from New York to California and as far away away as Canada, the NCTTA's pre-tournament practice scene was a cool place to bring the cameras.  No worries about winning or losing points in tense table tennis matches that get decided in the last few seconds.

Andy Nguyen promised to wrap up his work, and produce at least a short video piece to showcase at Saturday night's NCTTA awards dinner at a Round Rock hotel.

An impossible assignment? The quick-witted NCTTA marketing chairman revealed his secret. How does the talented media guru from Charlotte, North Carolina get so much done, in a hurry? Energy drinks and coffee must help.

Honestly, it takes more than that. "I am not going to sleep!,'' insists the energetic Nguyen.

Picking Brenda Nguyen in the crowd of table tennis lovers to help do the player interviews proved to be a terrific choice. She's pretty familiar with the Olympic sport (she's a former standout player at the University of Minnesota). Brenda competed at the NCTTA's 2014 national championships near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. So she really appreciates the electric atmosphere at the NCTTA's biggest tournament of the season.

"This was very spontaneous,'' Brenda said of her media debut as she finished player interviews. "It's fun.'' On Friday, things get much more serious for the Minnesotan. She will work the championship games as one of the umpires. The table tennis games count for real on Friday morning. The lively tournament at the Round Rock Sports Center wraps up Sunday.

The 2018 iSET College Table Tennis Championships is hosted by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and the Round Rock 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 iSET, Double Happiness, Gerflor, Double Fish and USA Table Tennis

Players and spectators alike will enjoy a jam-packed weekend of table tennis at the iSET College Table Tennis Championships. The event starts Friday April 20th and continues through Sunday April 22nd.

About NCTTA

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

Top Schools Look for Glory in Men’s/Coed Team Championships

(Picture above of Tom Feng by Warren Rosenberg)

The Men’s/Coed Team event is the title everyone seeks. Each tournament has the premier event and for the 2018 iSET College Table Tennis Championships it is the Men’s/Coed Team event.

The National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA) was founded in the early 1990’s with this format and structure in place for a men’s/coed team battle where both the best men and women college students play together to represent their school for the chance to take this title. This is an odd format for table tennis and unique to see men and women playing together on the same team, but this is the NCTTA way and it is our diamond event!

The top 10 in the men’s/coed team event is a who’s who of Table Tennis talent from former to current Olympians from the United States and other countries! Pillar College features former US Olympian Timothy Wang, and California Berkeley features current US Olympian Lily Zhang. And let’s not forget other schools like Mississippi College (the only school to defeat Texas Wesleyan in the modern era), Lindenwood University (a scholarship school in Missouri) or UC Davis and Northeastern that have very strong teams as well.  NCTTA tournament director, Willy Leparulo states, “Literally there is no place to hide in a draw like this, everyone is good, wall to wall 2000’s.”

Lindenwood University’s coach David Cabrera says when we asked him if this is the best Lindenwood team yet, “I think our chances are very high as we have top players from all over the world here studying and playing.” Lindenwood is led by Brazilian international, Massao Kohatsu (2554) and the athletic wonder in Jeff Yamada (2462). Yamada was featured in this youtube video highlighting his athleticism to getting each and every ball!

NYU features two current National team players for the United States, Adar Alguetti and Tom Feng. Coach Yanjun Gao of NYU tells us about how their preparation is going, I set up two times a week for our team practice and let everybody go to the gym two or three times before the national. Hope our all players will be fit at national.”  NYU has an initial goal to reach semi-finals this year, but according to Coach Gao, “We always trying to win the Championships of course.”  They will have some formidable opponents, but none so formidable as the mighty Texas Wesleyan Rams.

Texas Wesleyan University is no stranger to this title having won 13 out of the last 14 Coed Team titles! NCTTA President and Tournament Director Willy Leparulo always affectionately compares them to the “New York Yankees of College Table Tennis,” referring to the Major League Baseball team’s historic record of titles.  Coach Jasna Rather leads the program since 2007 and talks about how strong the competition has become, “The competition is each year getting stronger. Coaches and athletes are aware of that, and try to keep up with good competition.”

The Texas Wesleyan Rams are always prepared and now they have more of a home field advantage being in their home state. Rather states, It is great to be back in Round Rock since it is only a few hours drive from Fort Worth, and playing conditions in the gym are superb.”

Come check out this superb facility and tournament championships April 20-22nd at the Round Rock sports center!

The 2018 iSET College Table Tennis Championships is hosted by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and the Round Rock 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 iSET, Double Happiness, Gerflor, Double Fish and USA Table Tennis

Players and spectators alike will enjoy a jam-packed weekend of table tennis at the iSET College Table Tennis Championships. The event starts Friday April 20th and continues through Sunday April 22nd.

About NCTTA

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

Women’s Table Tennis Shines at NCTTA Championships

By Andy Kanengiser

NCTTA Media Chair

(Pictured above Wenting Zha of Texas Wesleyan; picture by Grant Bergmann)

Talented women with a passion for table tennis will showcase their favorite Olympic sport on a national stage in Texas.

Players from women’s teams at schools such as as Texas Wesleyan University and the University of California-Berkeley should rise to the occasion at the 2018 championships in Round Rock. Cal-Berkeley is led by Lily Zhang, a Team USA player, who propelled the Lady Bears to a first-place finish at the 2017 championships in Wisconsin.  Texas Wesleyan women were the runner-ups a year ago at the NCTTA’s biggest tournament of the season.

Look for women’s teams at other schools like the University of Minnesota, the University of British Columbia in Canada and Lindenwood University in Missouri to give chase, and win big games, too, in 2018. About 250 of the best collegiate players in the USA and Canada will square off April 20-22 at the Round Rock Sports Center near Austin.

Doru Gheorghe, head coach for the TWU Rams women’s team beginning in May 2016, is again leading another solid group on the Fort Worth campus. He’s a former longtime head coach of the USA women’s national table tennis team. His service there began in 1998.

His Texas Wesleyan roster will include stellar student-athletes like Wenting Zha. Born in China, she’s been a USA resident for some time.

Wenting brings skills to the table with paddle in hand, but she’s also a bright student. She began working on her MBA at Texas Wesleyan last Fall. “She’s a very talented athlete and a great student,’’ says Coach Jasna Rather, who heads the university’s table tennis program. “We are lucky to have someone of her caliber on the team.’’

Wenting Zha shined with her Texas Wesleyan University teammates to achieve a first-place finish at the NCTTA’s 2018 South Regionals. The games were held at the Sid Richardson Center on the Fort Worth campus in late February.

The perennial national champs, Texas Wesleyan captured five of the six championship titles at stake at the NCTTA’s 2017 championships last April in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.

At the Texas divisionals in early February, the Texas Wesleyan’s powerful women’s lineup went 3-0, with perfect 4-0 scores. Wenting Zha ended up at the top spot, followed by teammates Yue Wu, Edina Haracic and Viyaleta Manastyrskaya.

It’s hard to say who’s the most talented player on the Lady Rams team.

“Our top three players are at a similar level, and basically share the 1-3 position, and then strong 4 and 5 athletes as well,’’ Rather said.

Other squads the Texas Wesleyan Lady Rams will face in the 2018 championships, she said, “are very strong. It is getting tougher and tougher to make the top 4 in coed and women’s teams,’’ Coach Rather said. “As always, our team will fight hard.’’

Cal-Berkeley’s team received a major boost when Ohlone College table tennis standout Ying Wang transferred to the school. That big announcement came in June 2017. The 22-year-old sensation from China and economics major at Ohlone College didn’t miss a beat when she became a California Bear last Fall. The 5’3” Wang fell in love with the academic environment and zeal that Cal students have for their education.

NCTTA President Willy Leparulo says the women’s teams to beat at the late April tournament will remain Texas Wesleyan University and California-Berkeley.

But he believes other squads will make some noise in Round Rock. “The University of Minnesota and the University of British Columbia are no walk overs,’’ Leparulo said. “These teams feature stars in the making and could make a run at the title.’’

The 2018 iSET College Table Tennis Championships is hosted by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and the Round Rock 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 iSET, Double Happiness, Gerflor, Double Fish and USA Table Tennis

Players and spectators alike will enjoy a jam-packed weekend of table tennis at the iSET College Table Tennis Championships. The event starts Friday April 20th and continues through Sunday April 22nd.

About NCTTA

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

Lone Rangers Seek New Friendships and Lasting Experiences in Champs

By Michael Reff

NCTTA Media

(Picture above by Yukong Zhang of Rolland Zhang of Texas A/M University)

It’s that time of year again: the preparations for the 2018 iSET NCTTA College Table Tennis Championships at Round Rock, Texas are in full operation, and college teams are raising last minute funds and squeezing in extra practice sessions to be completely ready for the opportunity of a lifetime. But there are a handful of individuals that have qualified for the single’s competition and not with the team. These bold few are affectionately called the “Lone Rangers.” These are some of their stories.

One might think one of the main quandaries Lone Rangers find themselves in is difficulty interacting with other teams or being perceived as a third wheel since they come alone without accompaniment. This is not the case for Stanford senior Annie Shi.  She’s delighted to be going to Nationals again (she was also in the 2016 Nationals) “because” she says, “that means I’ll get to spend time playing table tennis with my friends and see a lot of my friends from different schools that I haven’t seen since we trained together as kids or competed together back in the day.” She cites the fact that since table tennis is quite a “close-knit community,” it makes her feel at home socializing with other schools. She does however admit that it will be a little difficult not having the physical support of her home team there, but she is still looking forward to making new table tennis acquaintances.

Along the same vein of Annie, 20-year-old Yash Shah of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, was elated to learn of qualifying for the Nationals, and is also looking forward to meeting up again with old and new friends. One of his old friends happens to be Mudit, a former teammate of Yash’s when they were on a state team in India. Yash has mixed emotions about being a Lone Ranger; on the one hand he is ecstatic about being able to play in Nationals again, and on the other hand he is going to feel down “as I will miss my teammates as both my previous Nationals I have attended it has been with my team. It’s also hard to convince the University to fund the trip for an individual as compared to a team.”

Another Lone Ranger, 30-year-old PhD candidate Keighobad Jafarzadegan of Purdue University, stated that this experience would be the only time he has qualified for the event at this level, and it would be his last time as well. Like Yash, he cited difficulty obtaining funds from the university for an individual, as well as an overwhelming amount of studies involved with his PhD candidacy in civil engineering. He has fought through these hardships though and is still determined to play his last year of eligibility out in Round Rock, Texas on April 20-22.

Finally, Rolland Zhang is a 19-year-old Computer Science student who attends Texas A&M University. Rolland was thrilled to qualify for Nationals this year because of the proximity of his school to Round Rock. He was sad that his team, which almost obtained a wildcard, did not qualify for the Championships this year. Rolland does however have an advantage over several of the Lone Rangers in the fact that his team captain Eldon Luo will be coming with him to help coach. Although one of the lowest seeds in the tournament with a 1909 rating Rolland has ambitious goals for the Nationals, hoping to create several upsets over much higher rated players.

To all the Lone Rangers out there who have braved the table tennis trek alone and with minimal funding and support: We salute you!

The 2018 iSET College Table Tennis Championships is hosted by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and the Round Rock 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 iSET, Double Happiness, Gerflor, Double Fish and USA Table Tennis

Players and spectators alike will enjoy a jam-packed weekend of table tennis at the iSET College Table Tennis Championships. The event starts Friday April 20th and continues through Sunday April 22nd.

About NCTTA

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

Table Tennis Family Affair in California

By Andy Kanengiser

NCTTA Media Chair

The Silicon Valley remains a table tennis hotbed in California.

The center of the USA's sophisticated high-tech universe is a breeding ground for big companies as well as startups with tons of smart people hooked on computers. Computers are their passion and surround their careers.        

Drive around San Jose and suburbs like Milpitas, and visitors will discover really nice table tennis clubs. People compete at the region's clubs and keep their table tennis paddles and balls in constant motion at home. The Chu family in this Santa Clara County near San Jose and Fremont is definitely all in for table tennis.

Look for three members of the Chu family from Milpitas to showcase their skills at the 2018 NCTTA championships in Round Rock, Texas. It will be the first time all three Chu siblings competed at the same time at the NCTTA's biggest tournament of the season. Come to the Round Rock Sports Center April 20-22 to see them in action.

Anthony Chu, 19, is a freshman studying computer science and math at the University of California San Diego. Besides playing on his college table tennis team at UCSD, Anthony enjoys playing guitar and running.

Big brother Nathaniel Chu, 21, is a UCLA senior and computer science major. He plays with a high degree of skill on the Bruins table tennis team. Nathaniel's hobbies include guitar and working out.

Let's not forget Isabel Chu, 20, a UCLA junior. She's a talented table tennis player with the Lady Bruins team. When she's not slamming and spinning table tennis balls, Isabel is a bright physiological science major. Her hobbies are baking and hiking.

Whether the Chu siblings win or lose games in the Lone Star State in late April, they will always give it their all. They will contest every point. It's just how they approach the sport at home or on the road. The two brothers and sister enjoy competing against each other. It makes them better players.

"We have some rivalries,'' Isabel Chu says. "We believe that it makes us improve because of our competitive spirits.''

At the national championships there will be at least 250 players participating for three days. "We like to think of college table tennis players as one big family,'' says NCTTA President Willy Leparulo. "But in the case of the Chu family and a few others, it's really pretty special to see them play.''

The 2018 iSET College Table Tennis Championships is hosted by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and the Round Rock 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 iSET, Double Happiness, Gerflor, Double Fish and USA Table Tennis

Players and spectators alike will enjoy a jam-packed weekend of table tennis at the iSET College Table Tennis Championships. The event starts Friday April 20th and continues through Sunday April 22nd.

About NCTTA

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

 

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