Northwestern Rebuilds Table Tennis Team

By Andy Kanengiser
NCTTA Media Chair
When standout players graduate, table tennis team coaches must recruit new talent and rebuild the roster in a hurry.
Such is the case with Northwestern coach Ned Leuchtner. Relaxing for a few minutes before the flurry of games Saturday in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, he summed up the 2016-17 season.
"For Northwestern, it's a rebuilding year,'' Leuchtner says. 
In his 8th year coaching, there are positives to highlight for the university near Chicago. That includes the talented Northwestern women's team as players grabbed breakfast snacks in the Clarion hotel lobby.
There were notable triumphs for Northwestern in NCTTA tournaments earlier this year. "We beat Wisconsin and Purdue in the divisionals,'' Ned noted. "That's like the Chicago Bears beating the Green Bay Packers,'' in the NFL.
Wisconsin women, though, stormed back to topple Northwestern in the NCTTA regionals.
But the main thing, he said, is the Northwestern women worked hard to qualify for the NCTTA's biggest tournament of the year in Eau Claire. And recruiting for next season looks good. "We have a solid base to build on,'' Leuchtner says.
Based on the campus in Evanston, Illinois, the Northwestern team in purple uniforms features three players from China. They are: Jinyi Huang, 19, a sophomore economics and mathematics major from Hubei, and grad students Jing Li and Yining Zhu (both 23-year-olds are studying electrical engineering). Freshman Betty Yu, 18, a psychology major from Alpharetta, Georgia rounds out the women's squad.
Making recruiting go easier for Leuchtner is that Northwestern ranks as a world-class academic institution. "We're on the short list for people who want to go to a good college.''
Athletics is also huge at Northwestern, a Big Ten school that tackles big-time opponents in sports like football. Northwestern opens the 2017 football season at home against Nevada at Ryan Field on September 2. Duke is the road foe on September 9. Northwestern faces the Penn State Nittany Lions October 7 at Homecoming.
Getting an education at an elite school like Northwestern offers other advantages. The marathon of cultural attractions in the Chicago area are a huge selling point for college students.
Leuchtner calls table tennis coaching his fun, volunteer job. He works full-time for Comcast/NBC Universal Business as a market development account executive in the greater Chicago region. He knows a great deal about the cable TV industry.
But the Northwestern coach also knows a good bit about table tennis. Ned Leuchter paddled his way to become the Indiana University table tennis champion in 1984. That was two years after legendary coach Bobby Knight led the Indiana Hoosiers basketball team to a national championship triumph.
When the NCTTA championships wrap up in Wisconsin April 9, the Northwestern coach begins to look ahead to next season. There will be summer practices for players twice a week and tournaments roll around in the fall. Leuchtner will also step up plans to raise money for his team.
The coach reports success promoting Northwestern table tennis in the national media. Chicago-cased TV superstation WGN recently posted video clips of the Northwestern players, It's just another reason Ned believes his squad's future shines bright.

The 2017 TMS College Table Tennis Championships is hosted by the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and the Eau Claire 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

Players and spectators alike will enjoy a jam-packed weekend of table tennis at the TMS College Table Tennis Championships. The event starts Friday April 7th and continues through Sunday April 9th. 


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).