By Michael Reff
(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.
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