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April 12, 2013 

No Teammates, No Worries

 Singles Players See Beyond the Challenges at the 2013 NCTTA National Championships

This weekend, 112 collegiate athletes will compete in the 2013 NCTTA National Championships’ men’s and women’s singles competition in Rockford, IL. But not everyone will have a coach or teammates to offer support and advice from the sidelines.


Sheena Tsang, a graduating senior at UC Davis is her school’s only representative at the National Championships. Tsang will compete in the women’s singles competition, and this is the 22 year old’s first year playing in the NCTTA.


            “I’ve been in sports where cheering for teammates involved screaming and yelling for each other in support,” the sociology major and aspiring law student said. “So it’s kind of a big change and something that I’m not used to.”


            21-year-old men’s singles player Clément Le Coz will also make his way to his first National Championship alone. Originally from France, the University of Oregon junior faces a language barrier in addition to the opponents standing in his way.


It is a bit scary for a foreign guy like me who does not speak English so well,” Le Coz said. Going to Nationals requires a lot of preparation and furthermore, I am going by myself.”


 But despite not having teammates or supporters around, players like Le Coz and Tsang see the opportunity to compete and do well for their schools as enough to make the National Championships a challenge to relish.


“My first goal is having fun and I’m not going there for regrets,” Le Coz said. “I want to play as good as I can and represent my university as well as possible. It will be tough but I love adversity.”


And it’s not just the singles debutants that fancy their chances against the odds. Seasoned player Olmo Sebastian Zavala Romero will represent Florida State University in the men’s singles competition this weekend, and remains unfazed by the pressure of being his school’s only representative at the National Championships.


“I believe some players play a lot better when their have support from their teammates and others don't,” said Zavala, a 3rd year Ph.D. student. “And I’m not really worried about not having support. I kind of like playing against the crowd.”


            Zavala, 33, is a 4-time under-18 Mexican national champion who stopped playing competitively when he was 22. Zavala also coaches the FSU table tennis team.


            “The team is great. We have a motivated group and people are getting better fast, but most of them didn't play when they were young and it is very difficult to be rated 2000 in less than 2 years of training,” Zavala said.


            Zavala believes he can help his team a lot more by training them rather than getting a good result for himself at the National Championships, and hopes to share as many pictures and videos of the experience as he can. Hence instead of being over concerned with his tournament performance - Zavala admits he hasn’t trained as regularly as he’d have liked to - the former Mexican national team member sees this year’s competition as a potential teaching tool for his charges instead.


          “My main objective is not to go to the nationals and do great,” Zavala said. “What I want is to share this beautiful sport with others and give them some of the experiences that the sport gave me when I was younger. I hope to teach them things through the sport that will help them in life.”


Participating in her second National Championships is Vanessa Petroj, a graduate student at the University of Connecticut. Petroj, who first started playing table tennis when she was 8 in her hometown of Uzdin, Serbia, is looking forward to the competition, thanks to the support of her teammates, club and school.


“I'm happy to say that my teammates, friends and fellow Huskies are all behind me,” the 24-year-old linguistics student said. “I’m proud to represent UConn at the Nationals for the second time in the history of the table tennis club and I will do my best to not disappoint them.”


For Petroj, the camaraderie shared by collegiate table tennis players has all but eliminated the psychological advantage of being a school’s only representative as well.


"I felt like a part of the NCTTA community the minute I walked into the gym,” Petroj said, referring to her first Nationals experience at last year’s championships in Plano, TX. “The NCTTA community has made me feel at home in a country that's still so foreign to me.”


Though none of her schoolmates were present with her last year, Petroj did not feel alone. Together at the 2012 National Championships with her were friends Haley Huang from Northeastern University, Jurica Bulovic from Brown University and childhood friend Brana Vlasic from the University of California, San Diego.


“Even though I had no one from UConn, I still had friends with me,” Petroj said. “This year is a different situation, and even though Haley and Jurica won't be there, I'm coming back to a bunch of awesome people I met last year.”


            Ultimately, for NCTTA members like Romero and Petroj, it is this sense of community and friendships made through competition that keeps them coming back year after year.


“I think being the only representative at the Nationals is a disadvantage only because it would be amazing to have a whole team to share this experience with,” Petroj said. “The pressure is always on, either external or self-imposed, but last year's Nationals made me realize that while I am among table tennis players, supporters and fans, I am never alone.”

 The 2013 College Table Tennis Championships is hosted by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and the Rockford Area Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and is one of the most competitive 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 Newgy Industries, Butterfly, PR etc. Rockford Table Tennis club, Fitzgerald Equipment, Rockford Park District

Full list of participants and seeds:

Players and spectators alike will enjoy a jam-packed weekend of table tennis at the 2013 College Table Tennis Championships. The event starts Friday April 12th and continues to Sunday April 14th at the Forrest Tennis Center in Rockford, Illinois.



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.


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).