The Columbia table tennis club will be one of 25 elite schools to compete at the national table tennis championship next week. With Columbia seeded 13th in the country, the team will try to break into the top 10—a place it hasn't held since the Lions finished third in the nation in the 2009 championship. Sophomore Stephanie Shih is currently the 10th-seeded female tennis table player in the national championship, and will anchor the team as they look to make a deep run at Nationals. "Getting into the top 10 will be challenging, because the trend has been that the middle 10 or so teams are all very evenly matched," Shih said. The Columbia team will start in round-robin play in a group of four teams, where the top two teams will enter into the championship knockout round. The Columbia team will play in a group with No. 1 Texas Wesleyan, No. 12 Penn State, and No. 2 UC San Diego. With the country's top team in their group, the Lions will need to defy expectations in order to advance into the knockout round. "We like our chances—last year we went into the tournament seeded 17th and came out 13th. We are used to playing as the underdogs and good things happen when you have less pressure going into the tournament," Gary Wong, a team member from the Medical School, said. Despite the toughness of its upcoming opponents, Columbia players feel ready to take on the competition. "I think since most of the teams we'll be playing are around our level, our biggest challenge will be to stay focused, energized," Shih said. "That's one thing we definitely need to do our best to avoid, and doing so will keep matches short and efficient." The College Table Tennis Championship will be held in Plano, Texas from Friday, April 13 to Sunday, April 15. It will be the last time that Shih will compete, as she will graduate at the end of this year. But the club is growing, with a young pool of talent that includes two exceptional freshmen, Eric Leung and Janiel Li. "I don't have any experience competing with the top-seeded schools at the Nationals but I've played my heart for every match, and I will continue to do so at Nationals," Leung said. Behind Li and Leung, the Light Blue is poised to make a splash nationally in the next few years. "My four years here have been wonderful," Shih said. "And I hope that the current and up-and-coming underclassmen can continue to carry on the team's tradition of success."
Columbia Spectator Staff