From near-extinction to the national championships: How U.Va. Club Table Tennis rebuilt their team – The Cavalier Daily


Two years in the past, the College’s membership table tennis workforce had simply two lively members and the workforce’s CIO standing was frozen. Flash ahead to immediately and the membership workforce now has 100 lively members and third-year Engineering scholar Shirley Zhang certified this yr for the nationwide championships in girls’s singles. 

Through the summer time of 2019, David Xiao, fourth-year Engineering scholar and membership president, met with the membership workforce’s 4 different members — third-year Engineering scholar Shirley Zhang, second-year Faculty scholar Jordan Denish, second-year Engineering scholar Peter Chen and fourth-year Faculty scholar Daniel Gong — and formulated a plan to deal with the workforce’s low member dedication and frozen CIO standing. 

With assist from Jasmine James and Kelly Chambers, program coordinators for scholar engagement on the College, the group confirmed as much as the Actions Honest in fall 2019 ready with a imaginative and prescient of how they needed to form the membership and a plan for the primary few weeks of practices. They had been swarmed by 400 college students. 

To prepare the plenty, Xiao and his government board determined to separate the scholars into two teams — a leisure workforce and a aggressive workforce. Inside the aggressive workforce, they had been capable of create a co-ed workforce and a girls’s workforce. 

Regardless of Xiao’s success in reviving the membership, the president has surprisingly solely performed table tennis for a couple of years. 

“I truthfully didn’t actually play rather a lot earlier than faculty,” Xiao stated. “We form of simply had a table and we’d fiddle with it once I was actually little.”

He performed different sports activities earlier than coming to the College, the place he joined the fencing workforce and finally picked up table tennis. Although Xiao stated that it’s fairly typical for members to not have any expertise coming into the workforce, Jordan Denish — second-year Faculty scholar, membership treasurer and social chair — stated that he transitioned to the game from tennis. 

“One of many principal issues I used to be enthusiastic about with going to school was having the ability to be part of a ping pong workforce,” Denish stated. “I used to be actually searching for it once I acquired right here, and I’m actually glad that now we have a workforce.”

In keeping with Xiao, a typical follow consists of match play and drills, and aggressive workforce members typically do video evaluation on their very own in preparation for tournaments, such because the annual competitors James Madison holds. Whereas Denish stated that James Madison often has a big workforce, he cited Liberty and Virginia Tech as two constantly robust opponents as effectively.

In a transparent spotlight this season, Zhang, who’s the membership’s vice chairman, certified for the iSET nationwide championships, a match held yearly by the Nationwide Desk Tennis Affiliation, within the girls’s singles occasion. Although it was canceled as a result of COVID-19 pandemic, the accomplishment actually marked a milestone for the workforce. Zhang, who has expertise enjoying table tennis relationship again to her center faculty years, was modest concerning the achievement. 

“Truthfully, I actually simply lucked out,” Zhang stated. “I acquired assist from everybody.”

In one other thrilling match this season, Xiao and fourth-year Faculty scholar Daniel Gong — the workforce’s longest collaborating member — got here again from a number of match factors to beat Maryland. 

“That was probably the most enjoyable matches to be careful of the entire yr,” Denish stated. “They had been capable of pull by way of and win, and it was simply actually cool to look at.”

The workforce’s success in aggressive play is a testomony to the group’s progress in recent times.

Earlier this yr, the workforce additionally had  former skilled table tennis participant Ayush Tayal practice with them whereas he studied within the McIntire College of Commerce, which Denish stated was a very worthwhile expertise.  

After spring break, the workforce was planning to assist with the U.Va. Olympics — a contest between lessons that was set to happen this spring — and scrimmage the Charlottesville Desk Tennis Membership. Although his time was lower brief, Xiao stated he has excessive hopes for the workforce’s future.

Xiao stated that after he leaves, he hopes to see participation improve from the leisure workforce, which he anticipates probably forming an government board for sooner or later. He famous that he thinks it is vital that the workforce maintains a aggressive stage regardless of the lack of graduating fourth years and needs the workforce to go to nationals once more. 

Most significantly, Xiao stated private objective of his was to ensure that the momentum he helped create lasts past his commencement. 

“I’m actually happy with all people for stepping up though it was actually traumatic and actually tense at the start of the yr with the massive inflow of individuals,” Xiao stated. “As a result of they’ve had this expertise and since they had been capable of push by way of that and bond collectively as a workforce, I actually really feel just like the table tennis membership is in good palms.”

Xiao additionally famous a couple of of his proudest accomplishments from this yr together with a rise in participation so massive that they had been capable of kind a girls’s workforce. Furthermore, Xiao stated that, regardless of the workforce’s drive to win, he was glad that they had been capable of keep a welcoming setting. 

“We attempt to be aggressive, however we attempt to worth the folks earlier than the wins and the losses,” Xiao stated. “I believe that’s vital and I believe that some membership sports activities could not do this as a lot.”

The best is but to come back, nevertheless. Denish famous that he was trying ahead to seeing the brand new members be part of the workforce’s government board later this yr. Regardless of the semester’s abrupt ending, the College’s membership table tennis workforce actually has a vivid future forward of them, particularly with such a powerful basis to construct on and extremely devoted management.