By Andy Kanengiser
NCTTA Media Chair
Table tennis players at schools from California to the Midwest and deep in the heart of Texas are thrilled about advancing to the national collegiate championships.
That’s especially true for teams making their first-ever appearance at the NCTTA’s biggest tournament of the year. This time, the annual event will be staged in Greensboro, North Carolina from April 12-14.
Case in point is the University of California at Irvine. The UCI players from Southern California are talented and definitely for real as they prepare for their first trip to Nationals. Known as the Anteaters, they proved they could play by winning the NCTTA West Regionals on March 9. UCI knocked off foes like UC Davis and Cal- Berkeley to make it to the top and punch their ticket to the 2019 Nationals.
Coach Jason Chauv is elated and so is the rest of his awesome squad at his West Coast university that enrolls nearly 30,000 undergraduates.
“Our athletes are extremely excited with the opportunity to compete on the national stage and represent UC Irvine,’’ Chauv said. “Our primary goal this coming Nationals is to have fun, meet up with old friends, and hopefully make new ones. We hope to play some good table tennis.’’
The season began for UCI with no big expectations, but just grow as a team, the coach noted. Things began to change in a hurry. UCI grabbed first-place honors in the SoCal East Fall Divisionals.
But the team didn’t rest with that one great accomplishment. UCI fared well at the next divisionals in February, including a nail biter when they defeated UC San Diego in a match going to doubles.
Topping UC Davis and Cal-Berkeley at West Regionals for UCI (in only its second appearance) was a “milestone achievement,’’ Coach Chauv said.
So who’s on the University of California-Irvine team?
The diverse squad includes three California players: Newman Cheng, 19, of Huntington Beach, Krish Avvari, 19, and Ray Yi, 20, both of Fremont.
Making their team of standouts even more diverse are players like Hoiman Chu, 20, of Hong Kong, China, Neal Thakker, 18, of India, and Yoshitomo Matsubara, 27, of Japan.
Newman Cheng and Krish Avvari both competed on the USA National Table Tennis Team. Neal Thakker won the high school table tennis championship for three straight years.
If basketball success is any indication, UCI should make noise in North Carolina. The UCI hoops team advanced to the NCAA’s Big Dance and defeated Kansas State 70-64 in the tournament opener before losing to Oregon.
Also expected to make some noise in Greensboro after earning their first Nationals invite are members of the University of Illinois at Chicago team.
UIC is proud of its progress in 2018-19 in NCTTA divisionals and regionals tournaments. Players like Ali Fakhari are pumped to soon be flying to North Carolina to showcase their skills.
Traveling from the Windy City with paddles in hand to compete against the best collegiate players in North America will offer new challenges.The UIC squad also includes players like Pramod Anantha of India, Xing Li of China, Hamza Godil of Pakistan and Khang Nguyen of Vietnam.
Players like Xing Li say it’s a great honor to be invited to Nationals, especially for the first time. He points to a dedicated bunch of teammates who play their favorite Olympic sport with passion. It’s been a rewarding season of “hard work and sweat’’ for the UIC players, Li says.
The players from the Illinois metropolis are anxious to bring their best brand of table tennis down South. “I’m so excited and proud of these guys,’’ said Ali Fakhari, the UIC team’s leader. “They’ve worked really hard to reach this huge achievement, especially while all being extremely busy students. I feel fortunate I even know these guys.’’
Equally excited about going to Nationals for their initial visit is the University of Texas at San Antonio squad. Players Leijie Qi of China, Mark Conrad, who was raised in Australia, Nicolas Alvarez of Cali, Colombia, and Deven De Leon of San Antonio, are fired up about going to Greensboro. Contributing to their success in the Lone Star State was their fever for table tennis plus the steady grind at practices.
For more information on the 2019 collegiate table tennis championships in Greensboro, North Carolina April 12-14 go to nctta.org
The 2019 iSET College Table Tennis Championships is hosted by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and Sports & Properties Inc. and Greensboro 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, SPI, Greensboro CVB, 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 12th and continues through Sunday April 14th. Tickets on sale at ticket master
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