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.
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