“Qualifying for the national tournament — we think that’s a big thing with the competition we had here,” club President Eran Chinthaka said.
The tournament began with a round-robin qualifying round that featured three groups of three players each (with a bye for the top seed) and 15 groups of four players each on the men’s side. The top two of each group moved on to play in the 42-player championship bracket.
On the women’s side, players in three groups of three and five groups of four competed for 16 championship bracket spots.
Chinthaka, Mario Vieweger, Aron Frank, Xuan Wu and Rachel Luo all qualified for IU. Chinthaka and Wu were knocked out of the round-robin tournament and into the consolation bracket with third and fourth place finishes in their groups, respectively. Vieweger and Luo both placed second in their groups to earn spots in the championship bracket.
“Mario had to beat a few high-ranked players to get into the championship,” Chinthaka said. “Even without being ranked, we could go out there and beat a lot of players who are highly ranked, which we see as an achievement.”
Vieweger lost to Amaresh Sahu of Princeton University in the opening round of the championship matches, while Luo suffered a similar first-round defeat to Livia Mizobuchi (Lidenwood). But Chinthaka made his mark in the consolation bracket, getting to the semi-finals by beating Klevlan Monfared (Wyoming) and Tim Miller (Kentucky) before losing to Cao Yujlan (Minnesota).
Chintaka felt the competition in this tournament was particularly tough.
“Even though table tennis isn’t that popular in the United States and this part of the country, there are a lot of people who came to the tournament, especially people who represent the U.S. in the Olympics,” he said.
At the same time, Chinthaka said he felt like his players were ready from their success in the regional tournament.
“I don’t consider those upsets,” he said. “When you look at the players we have seen in our regular tournaments, these players are much better than that. But it’s not an upset; it’s a good achievement for us.”
The National Collegiate Table Tennis Association divides the country into 12 regions, and IU hosted the ACUI Region 9 2010 Tournament on February 6.
Vieweger took first place on the men’s side, going 6-0, while Chinthaka took third with a 3-1 record, his only loss being to Viewerger. Luo won the women’s side, posting a 3-0 record. Frank (3-1) and Wu (1-1) rounded out the players representing IU.
Chinthaka said he hopes that the club’s recent success will attract more players to a team that accepts all playing levels.
“We all play each other so that everyone has a chance to learn and improve,” he said. “We have existing players who do very well, and we try to get more members so that the club has a sustainable set of players that can keep up our momentum.”
With enough recruiting, Chinthaka thinks he can bring the team back to a high level.
“Our team took third in one of the national tournaments a couple of years back,” he said. “We’re not at that stage right now because our players are still developing.”
With the 2010 NCTTA Championship complete, bidding for the 2011 venue has already begun. Chinthaka said Bloomington is on that list and the club is vying for hosting duties.
“We are part of that effort,” he said. “We are trying to bring in the best players in the country and give our players a chance to play and also give our community a chance to see what this game is all about.”
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