Table Tennis Club reflects on their successes in previous years and looks to the future for more opportunities

    With an increase in membership, coach and members recognize their favorite moments and what they hope to accomplish

    More stories from Ta’Leah Van Sistine


    Photo by Submitted

    In this picture of last year’s Table Tennis Club, Taylor Luecke, the president of the club, is the furthest right in the first row, and Mel Rausch, the vice president of the club, is the second furthest right in the first row.

    They practice for twice a week from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., but often longer than that two hour slot. They frequent the McPhee Track and meet throughout the fall and spring semesters. This group is the Table Tennis Club, and as of this year, they have grown to acquire 25 members.

    Mel Rausch, a second-year geography student, is the vice president of the Table Tennis Club, and in regards to the club’s most significant successes, she said the increase in participating members was an achievement.

    “Last year started out alright,” Rausch said, “but then around second semester of last year, it dropped down to six people.”

    In comparison, Rausch said this year’s 25 members creates a nice and larger community of players who consistently come to practices, rather than the previous year’s small group.

    Jianjun Ji is the coach of the table tennis club and a professor of sociology at UW-Eau Claire. He said the team’s growth makes him feel optimistic about the club’s presence at the university.

    “It is very promising, for me,” Ji said. “I feel happy this year. (It’s the) first time I’ve seen that many members of the club.”

    Taylor Luecke, a second-year elementary education student and the president of the table tennis club, talked about other reasons why she initially joined.

    Luecke said she played table tennis in high school, and because she enjoyed it so thoroughly there, she decided to continue her involvement at UW-Eau Claire. She said she joined when she was a first-year and has continued to be a part of the club ever since.

    Her favorite moments throughout her time in the club have been the tournaments the group has attended, Luecke said. The club has two tournaments in Rochester, Minnesota. Thus far, they already competed in one of those tournaments on Oct. 20. Ji said there were 14 members who participated and they played against seven other teams.

    Luecke said she recognized the relaxed environment the Table Tennis Club creates. Both she and Rausch agreed that the team’s members and atmosphere are inviting and accepting.

    “It’s a super chill environment for people of all skill levels, to just come and play table tennis,” Luecke said. “If you wanna just play for fun, there are people who are there to have a good time, and if you want to be serious about it, there are people for that too.”

    “Everyone is welcome to come play table tennis or just be with friends,” Rausch seconded. “It’s a nice break from school.”

    Looking to the future, Luecke said she hopes she and Rausch will be able to witness UW-Eau Claire hosting another National Collegiate Table Tennis Association championship game, since the one UW-Eau Claire hosted in 2017 was before both of them were involved in the club.

    “We hope some time before we graduate, that we can hold nationals again,” Luecke said. “That would be fun, so we can attend.”

    Ji also said he hopes the team will continue to play with the other volunteer table tennis club in the Eau Claire community who play at Putnam Heights Elementary School. Ji said the UW-Eau Claire table tennis club has played with them once, but he wants the two teams to play together more in the future.

    Although Ji said he feels optimistic about the increase in members this year, he said he hopes even more students join the club because of the benefits that come with involvement.

    “They not only learn the skills and social interaction,” Ji said, “They are making friends and learning from each other, (which) helps their social knowledge (and it’s) good for their cross disciplinary activities.”

    Van Sistine can be reached at [email protected].