October Kicked off NCTTA Divisionals, With Them Exciting Matches
By Michael Reff
This past month started a flurry of activity on the college table tennis front. Student-athletes made a strong showing in Divisional tournaments as far west as the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, as far south as Texas, and as far north as the Lower New England Division hosted by Boston University in Massachusetts.
Although there was a usual dominant display from last year’s National Champions Texas Wesleyan, with both their coed’s and women’s teams sweeping their respective Divisionals,
there were other parts of the country that had closer matchups and surprising threats to the status quo.
One such Divisional was the Dixie Division hosted by Mississippi College. MC was runner-up to Texas Wesleyan last year in the Nationals and was able to clinch this Fall’s Divisional but not without a fight from the University of South Alabama (USA).
USA is a relatively new college team on the NCTTA circuit but is significantly improving. According to team captain Arthur Vongsakhamphouy, a Junior majoring in Health Informatics, he cited Peruvian international graduate student Axel Yarahuaman as a pivotal player and coach. Vonsakhamphouy remarks, “His [Yarahuaman’s] coaching and playing ability have created a progressive environment for the team. At the tournament, he defeated Caleb Shipman of MC and he helped coached Aaron Oliver to almost defeat MC's Paola Casas to force a tiebreaker.”
Although Vonsakhamphouy’s team secured a strong 2nd place finish, he believes they “are capable of a better performance.”
Moving on to the Lower New England division, UMass Amherst had one of their best showings in more than five years.
Lower New England division director Nancy Zhou observed,
“UMass Amherst tied for first place with Boston University, so then we look at the head-to-head record between UMass and BU. Because BU beat UMass in that head-to-head, BU was technically the first place recipient of the Fall 2019 Lower New England Divisionals. Of course, that doesn't diminish the impressive record that UMass Amherst had this tournament. It was their highest placement since at least 2013! One of the most notable matches that UMass Amherst had was against BU, where the UMass #1 went 5 games with BU's #1 and the resulting doubles match also ended up being 5 games.”
So, what is UMass Amherst’s success owed to? Well, according to their coach Andrew Tan, the causes are manifold. Tan says,
“The UMass Table Tennis Club has been fortunate to receive a handful of new students into who are enthusiastic, easy to get along with, and passionate for the game of Table Tennis. We had regular practices twice a week before the tournament. Everyone had put in a good amount of hard work in preparation for the tournament.”
As one can clearly see, the work ethic definitely paid off!
Congrats to the winners and fighters in the previous Divisionals thus far. The month of November will bring with it even more passion and team spirit.