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MIT Table Tennis Leads Division at 8-0

By Ron Choy

TEAM CAPTAIN

Last Saturday, the MIT table tennis team hosted the second meet of the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association of the 2003-2004 season. MIT excelled under pressure and pulled out a few close wins. MIT is now leading the division with an 8-0 record.

To many people, table tennis is a simple game that involves batting a celluloid ball around on a table. However, to the players in the meet last Saturday, table tennis is an Olympic sport involving balls that spin at 9,000 rpm and travel at 100 mph. MIT has been a powerhouse in the New England division of the NCTTA since its inception, competing intensively with Harvard for the division title. The New England division is the largest in the NCTTA, with nine active schools and more than 100 players.

The day started off with the team match between MIT and Northeastern. Northeastern has always been a serious contender in the division, but they are still trying to recover from the graduation of their top two players. Team matches consist of four singles matches followed by a doubles match. Team captain Ron Choy G, a ‘penhold’ style player whose specialty is a topspin loop attack, has not yet found his game and lost to his opponent in three close games, 10-12, 9-11, and 8-11.

Hong Linh Ho Duc G, a ‘shakehand’ style two-winged looper, had trouble in the first game against his opponent, pulling the game out at deuce. However, he recouped and won the next two games easily, 12-10, 11-1, 11-7.

Zhenhai Zhu G, a penhold style hitter, lost the first game but won the next three to defeat his opponent, 9-11, 11-6, 13-11, 11-6.

Niraj Kumar G, a shakehand blocker/hitter, won the first two games easily, but a lapse of concentration caused him to lose the next three games, losing the match deuce in the fifth, 11-6, 11-5, 8-11, 3-11, 11-13.

With the team match tied at 2-2, the doubles match determined the winner. The doubles featured the top two MIT players, Choy and Ho Duc, against the top two players from Northeastern. Under the watchful eyes of teammates and supporters from both sides, Choy/Ho Duc started off a bit nervous, played passively, and lost the first game. But they made adjustments quickly, attacked more, and won the next three games, 9-11, 11-5, 11-2, 14-12. Overall, MIT defeated Northeastern 3-2 in the team match.

Wesleyan University is a relatively new addition to the New England division, and they are fierce. Choy still has not found his attacking game, and his defense was not good enough against his opponent’s powerful forehand loop. He lost in five games, despite saving eight match points in the fourth game, 11-9, 9-11, 6-11, 20-18, 6-11. But Ho Duc, Zhu, and Kumar all dispatched their opponents easily in three games. MIT then lost the doubles match, which did not affect the fact that MIT defeated Wesleyan 3-2.

Harvard has been the division titleholder since the 1999-2000 season, and they also performed very well at the NCTTA Nationals last year, losing to the University of Illinois in the finals. MIT has not beaten Harvard since February 2000, and to try to break the dry spell, the team has been practicing hard under the supervision of team coach Liang Liung, former national disabled champion.

Against the Harvard top player, team captain Choy finally got back into shape and played his attacking game well, defeating his opponent, 11-7, 7-11, 11-7, 11-8. He received his opponent’s serve well and did not give him chance to attack. Ho Duc defeated his opponent, who also played a two-winged looping style, in five games, 8-11, 11-9, 11-7, 6-11, 11-5.

Zhu had trouble receiving his opponent’s tricky services and lost in three straight, 3-11, 3-11, 4-11.

Kumar defeated his opponent in three games, and the doubles pair Choy/Ho Duc defeated the Harvard pair 3-1, playing out a lot of spectacular defense points, blocking and lobbing far from the table with the Harvard players’ pounding with powerful loop drives. MIT defeated Harvard 4-1, winning for the first time in 44 months.

With these three wins, MIT is currently undefeated in the division with an 8-0 record. MIT will have to play each school again in the spring, but judging from the current record, one could say that the chance of MIT qualifying for the NCTTA nationals is fairly good.