Table tennis stars from Texas Wesleyan University and Mississippi College collided for five years in a row at the NCTTA championship games.
Fans wonder if the script will repeat itself at the 2017 tournament in Eau Claire, Wisconsin April 7-9. Time will tell as 260 stellar college players and coaches across the USA and Canada pack their paddles for three days of lively games.
Some observers predict a sixth straight Finals showdown between Texas Wesleyan and MC in the TMS tournament. MC’s lone national triumph for its coed team happened at the same Eau Claire venue in 2015. A narrow 12-10 win by MC in doubles decided the intense match as audiences watched via live streaming on their computers.
The MC Choctaws victory two years ago was historic in collegiate table tennis circles. MC knocked off a strong Texas Wesleyan bunch that arrived at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire with a phenomenal 11 consecutive national coed team titles. But the Texas Wesleyan Rams players responded and secured its 12th national coed team championship in March 2016 in Round Rock in the Lone Star State.
When the 2017 TMS championships arrive, Jasna Rather, head of the Texas Wesleyan table tennis program, and fellow coaches will have their squad ready. Same is true for Cheng Li, coach of the powerful MC team and the squad’s former all-star captain.
Texas Wesleyan Rams standouts like Jishan Liang, Zhe Feng, Bruno Dos Anjos Ventura, Chen Wang and Jennifer Wu, to name a few, will pack their paddles for the Dairy State. They expect to rack up wins in Wisconsin no matter who they face.
Mississippi College stars like Tomo Yoshitomi of Japan, plus, Qing Wei Sun and Yichi Zhang, all of China, also journey to Eau Claire with high hopes. An MC senior studying computer science, Yichi Zhang, 22, is the reigning 2016 men’s singles champ. A 19-year-old accounting major, Jeremy Gore of Walnut Ridge, Arkansas rounds out the five-man Blue & Gold squad from Clinton, Mississippi.
Other schools will give chase, including California’s Ohlone College, the two-year school gaining third-place in their debut at the 2016 championships near Austin, Texas. Lindenwood University of Missouri remains one of the toughest veteran teams coming to the nationals every spring. Snow, strong winds, rain or sunshine, the weather doesn’t seem to matter to the Lindenwood Lions. But bad weather can make travel difficult for a number of teams, from one year to the next.
A few things are certain. Organizers expect about 900 Double Fish balls will be used during the NCTTA’s biggest tournament of the year. It really starts Thursday with team registration at the hotel and evening practices before the games begin for real Friday April 7. It’s always a treat for fans of the Olympic sport.
The team with the shortest distance to travel? That would be the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, the host school. Not too far away is the University of Minnesota, that’s a ninety minute drive from Minneapolis. Players from universities in San Diego, California and Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada and Gainesville, Florida should have the longest journey by air.
Spectators checking out the table tennis teams with the loudest fan base might want to wear ear plugs at times. Brown University table tennis fans bring a reputation for being loud and proud. The same is true with Texas Wesleyan University. No doubt, Texas Wesleyan Rams will arrive in Wisconsin with a large contingent of players, coaches and fans who love the perennial national champs with terrific players from all around the globe.