Northwestern Makes Impressive Showing at 2016 Champs
By Andy Kanengiser
NCTTA Media Chairman
Six years ago, Northwestern University table tennis players battled with the school's ballroom dancing club to squeeze in enough time to practice on campus.
The fights for practice time at the student center at the Big Ten school in Evanston, Illinois are now over.
Led by Coach Ned Leuchtner, the Northwestern table tennis thrived during the 2015-16 season. The squad advanced to the NCTTA's Big Dance, the 2016 national championships in Round Rock, Texas. The three-day tournament ended Sunday.
As Leuchtner watched awesome women's doubles teams from Texas Wesleyan and Wisconsin scrap for points, he was pretty well pleased with the performance of his talented bunch.
The Northwestern team is sparked by freshman David Lee, an 18-year-old industrial engineering major from Saint Paul, Minnesota. He arrived at the Lone Star State tournament with a rating of 2275 and saw an uptick in his game over the weekend.
Competition for Northwestern was pretty tough at times. There were Northwestern team losses to No. 11 McMaster University of Canada and No. 12 UCLA. "But we satisfied with how we did during these tight matches,'' Leuchtner said Sunday at the Round Rock Sports Center.
Before all was said and done, Northwestern knocked off Western University of Canada. That was an unexpected triumph. Their determination and success over the weekend gave the Northwestern team something to build on for next season. "Our four guys will all be back next season,'' the coach noted.
Making its debut in the nationals, Northwestern's coed team finished 23rd.There are actually 15 members on the team that wears purple uniforms. The student-athletes competed for four slots on the squad making the journey to Texas.
Rounding out Northwestern's team: Shengzhi Luan, 25, a civil engineering graduate student from Harbin, China, Dash Neimark, 25, a graduate student from Ormond, Florida, and Edward Lin, a sophomore from Beijing, China. Luan advanced his game as a teen in high school leagues in China.
Northwestern's excellent academic reputation helps recruit players. So does the team's Facebook site, and the university's plugged in network of alums and students.
Serving as Northwestern's coach the past six seasons is something that Leuchtner does because he loves the Olympic sport and helping students succeed in life. The coach knows how to win. He was the table tennis champ at Indiana University in 1984. Outside the table tennis world, Leuchtner supervises the construction of historic properties. That includes the restoration of a Mobil gas station dating back to 1920.
Other college table tennis teams fared well on their first trip to the national championships. That included the North Texas State Mean Green. The school from Denton, Texas was delighted to report its coed team finished in 13th place. UNT ended up in the top eight in doubles. One of its singles players landed in the top 32.
North Texas State Coach Daniel Rutenberg believes his young team will be even better next year. His squad includes two 16-year-old players, Bryan Wu, and Chris Tian, both of Plano. Tsz Lun "Alan'' Chu is the oldest player, a 28-year-old graduate student from Hong Kong. Freshmen Brandon Chow, 17, and Jack Zhang, 18, both of Plano, round out the Mean Green Machine. The 16-year-olds are talented teens with paddles in hand. Bryan's rating is 2250 and Chris ranks at 1800.
In the real world, Rutenberg works as a marketing man. He's doing a terrific job marketing UNT table tennis in the Dallas area and beyond. As the three-day event in Round Rock was winding down, he called it a pretty good tournament for his team. With their games enhanced here, a stronger North Texas bunch seeks to return to the NCTTA's 2017 national championships.
The 2016 TMS 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 TMS International, Gerflor, Double Fish, and Joola.
Players and spectators alike will enjoy a jam-packed weekend of table tennis at the TMS College Table Tennis Championships. The event starts Friday March 25th and continues through Sunday March 27th at the Round Rock Sports Center
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