Mississippi College, Texas Wesleyan, Princeton, California all shine at the National Championships – but the top story of the tournament was Mississippi College who took the main event as the Coed Champions. Unlike many past years, the titles were spread among the top contenders: Mississippi College took the Coed and Men’s Doubles crowns, Texas Wesleyan won Men’s Singles and added runner-up honors in three events, Princeton won the Women’s Teams and California won Women’s Singles.
The main event at the NCTTA Collegiate Championships is the Coed Team Event – and that prize was taken in a minor upset by Mississippi College over Texas Wesleyan. TWU had earned the previous ten titles and entered this event as the top seed. That said, the Mississippi College team had three of the top players in the tournament.
How did the upset occur? TWU’s top rated player, Zhe Feng topped MC’s No. 1 Cheng Li 3-1. MC then won the next match to even the score (Tong Zhang over Zhedi Bai 3-0). TWU’s Emil Santos then claimed a 3-0 victory over Tyler Brogdon to give TWU the lead again. And in the fourth match, Yi Chi Zhang of MC held on to win 3-2 over TWU’s Brun Ventura Dos Anjos – pressing the event to a 2-2 tie and causing the match to be decided by Doubles. MC then sealed the visotry with a closely contested 3-2 win (Li Cheng and Tong Zhang teamed up to defeat Zhe Fent and Bruno Ventura Dos Anjos).
Among the twists and surprises that seemed to work in Mississippi College’s favor:
Tong Zhang defeated Zhedi Bai 3-0. That is, Tong Zhang upset a player rated 200 points higher, and that player (Bai) had actually defeated MC’s top rated player in the Men’s singles event.
The 4th Singles match pitted Bruno (TWU) and Yi Chi (MC). These two had met in the singles event with Bruno Ventura Dos Anjos winning handily 3-0. However, the rematch did not have the same result. Yi Chi was able to pull out the win 3-2.
That left the title to be decided by Doubles. Which turned out to be Mississippi College’s strongest in the whole tournament – This same pair (Li/Zhang) dominated the Men’s Doubles event. The result here was tight – but the same… Mississippi College won 3-2, to complete the upset and take home the top honors.
There is certainly no dishonor to the showing of Texas Wesleyan. The breaks didn’t go their way exactly – perhaps winning a few more close matches in Men’s Singles than expected (they had three of the four semifinalists and won the event). And in addition to finishing First in Men’s singles, they also finished second in the team event, second in Men’s Doubles, and second in Women’s Doubles. Clearly TWU is an elite squad and they will likely be the favorites again next year.
In the Ladies Events, perhaps the top story was the dominating play of Princeton – who brought a very strong team of former US Team members lead by Olympian Ariel Hsing. They finished first in the Ladies Team event and had three of the top four finishers in Ladies Singles. However, Lily Zhang from University of California blocked Princeton’s sweep of the Ladies events by defeating a Princeton player in the semis and following that up with a win over Princeton’s Ariel Hsing in the Final.
Congratulations to NCTTA for a great event. The quality of the play is stronger every year, and the coverage this year was excellent – including live streaming of two tables throughout. Despite the disappointment felt by Texas Wesleyan in not securing their 12th consecutive team title, it can be nothing other than good for college table tennis to have a little more parity. The strength this year of Mississippi College and Princeton, and some very strong individual players from USC and Cal show a steady improvement in the event overall. College Table Tennis has arrived in the USA. We can’t wait to see what next year will bring.