Baruch table tennis routs Ivy League teams at NCTTA Regionals

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From left to right: Ka-Wing Chan, Sammy Zheng, Sean Reddy, Arvis Chen, Mishel Levinski, Can “Kevin” Wang, Matthew Hargraves.

Every week, the sports section of The Ticker covers various CUNYAC events for the Baruch College athletics teams. Sports such as basketball and volleyball have received the bulk of the attention due to the popularity and success the teams have achieved in recent years. Baruch, one of the 15 schools that make up the CUNYAC, competes in all nine of the sports offered in the conference except for track and field. However, aside from these eight sports, there is one other sport that has been highly underrated at Baruch since its inauguration in the 2008-09 season— table tennis.

The team was formed in 2008 and had a roster of six total students when it first started. In the following season, the Bearcats, led by former captain Kevin Lee, made it to the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association (NCTTA) championships after defeating schools like Columbia University, New York University and Rutgers University in the New York City Division. Despite playing in its first-ever NCTTA championships, Baruch took the tournament by storm and raised plenty of eyebrows when it crushed some of the better established teams like Duke University and Florida State University. This was a big accomplishment for Baruch, proving that it had the potential to compete at an elite level with the bigger names in college sports.

However, even after six seasons and numerous accolades, the Baruch table tennis team has not received recognition, much less support. “This year we were in a bit of a bind. We had a $2,000 budget, but the athletics department transferred our budget to Student Affairs, and it happened right before nationals so we had to figure everything out,” said Sean Reddy, who is the current captain of the team. Most of the team’s costs come from travel expenses as well as equipment. Fortunately for Reddy and the team, the issue was resolved in time for the group to travel to Texas and compete in the 2016 NCTTA championships.

“I want to give a big thanks to Art King and Jose Arias for working with me personally. They helped me figure out a budget in order for the team to attend nationals and represent Baruch with all of the success that we had. If it wasn’t for them working with us, we would not have gotten there,” said Reddy.

This season, the team has been playing at the top of their game and possibly the best in the program’s history. Much of its success can be attributed to the amount of talent that is currently on the roster, which includes two junior Olympians. After spending most of their youth playing professionally abroad, Mishel Levinski and Can “Kevin” Wang immigrated to the United States to pursue higher education. Levinski, a member of the Israeli national team and Wang, a former Chinese junior Olympian, eventually found their way to the Baruch table tennis team last fall.

“It’s more fun playing as a team than going out individually because you go out together and you cheer for each other,” shared Wang. “They give me support and they got my back and that’s why playing for the school feels special.” Both are currently rated among the top 20 in college table tennis and are a force to be reckoned with among some of the top competitors in the conference.

At the Northeast Regional Championships, the pair sealed the first place victory for Baruch with a sweep in a deciding doubles match against NYU. Levinski also added a bid for the singles competition after going 6-0 against players from Yale University, Brown University, Stony Brook University and others. “We have a supporting cast where everybody is always there for each other,” said Reddy. “When one person isn’t playing they’re watching intently and rooting for the person that is playing. It just brings this whole thing of teamwork together… being able to represent Baruch in the national community is honestly an honor and something that we always look forward to.”

After locking down a first place finish in Regionals, the team headed to Texas to play on the biggest stage in the NCTTA, the TMS College Table Tennis National Championships. In the singles competition, Levinski, who had a first round bye with the No. 9 seed, defeated Lindenwood 11-6, 8-11, 11-7 and 11-9. He passed the round of 32, but ultimately fell short in the round of 16 after three hard fought sets against Texas Wesleyan University. In the doubles competition, the two seemed nearly unstoppable playing in sync with each other and advancing to the quarterfinals, where they played against Texas Wesleyan once more. Both teams traded points and leads, but the Bearcats ultimately came out on top 10-12, 11-8, 11-8 and 11-8. Baruch’s run ended short with a loss in the semifinals to Mississippi College.

In team competition, Baruch bested Lindenwood in the first round, taking three of the five total sets against the all-star team. After losing to Ohlone College in the next round, the squad faced off against a stacked University of Toronto team in the loser’s bracket of the tournament. Both sides split the singles matches with two wins apiece, setting up an interesting showdown for the tiebreaker in doubles play. Sammy Zheng and Levinski ultimately wrapped up the match 7-11, 11-4, 11-6, 11-8 to give Baruch a fifth place finish in the tournament.

To Wang, winning is not the most important part of the game. “It’s about the process and cherishing the time he spends with his teammates,” he said. The team’s rise to stardom has gone unappreciated for many years, still seeking support from Baruch and many of its students. “Baruch does not have coaches like NYU, Columbia or the national champions of Texas Wesleyan or Mississippi College do. All of these schools have coaches where compared to here, we’re dedicated to table tennis, but we’re forced to teach ourselves.”

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