After falling just short of a 12th consecutive national title in April, the Texas Wesleyan table tennis team is back and ready for the 2015-2016 season.

Despite the loss, head coach Jasna Rather said she was impressed with how her team responded after the match.

“The team got even closer,” Rather said. “They bonded even better than ever. We have really great team spirit and that made them even more focused and challenged for the upcoming year to try and get better.”

To qualify for nationals, the team will first have to win the Texas Division of the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association and then the South Region, where schools from Texas to Florida, as well as Mississippi College, the team that beat Wesleyan at nationals in the spring, will compete. The top three teams from the South Region will qualify for nationals in March in Round Rock, Texas.

Rather said the Texas Division “is really getting strong” and that she will have a better sense of which teams are the biggest threats and toughest competition after the first part of the season, which started Aug. 1.

The team has a little different look this year, as eight freshmen have joined. Rather said that Emil Santos, Bruno Ventura Dos Anjos, Anastasia Rybka, and Jason Plog have really stood out so far.

“Bruno has really stood out and been a solid player,” Rather said. “Anastasia Rybka has really stood out, played really well lately, she’s been getting better and better, Jason Plog really works hard and trains hard.”

Wesleyan hosted the Texas Wesleyan Table Tennis Tournament on Sept. 26, according to Sports Information Director Josh Lacy. The tournament was an exhibition because it included non-collegiate teams.

Wesleyan had a good showing at the tournament, with a lot of players picking up victories.
“Anastasia Rybka (Texas Wesleyan) won open singles beating in final 3-2 Jonathan Li. Bruno Ventura Dos Anjos (Texas Wesleyan) and Italian guy Daniele Sabatino were 3rd and 4th. In U-2500 Sean Shuai Wang from Texas Wesleyan won in final against Anastasia Rybka from Texas Wesleyan. In U-2300 Edina Haracic from Texas Wesleyan won in final against Alan Chu from UNT. Texas Wesleyan’s Jerry Zhaoyu Wu was 2nd in U-1900,” Rather wrote in an email.

Santos, a junior, said that he could have performed better at the tournament and wants to win the division and qualify for nationals.

“I think we have to work on things that didn’t work at nationals, but we’re practicing really hard and working on getting better,” Santos said.

Plog, a sophomore, said that he performed so-so and could have done better.

“We just have to keep up our focus practice harder and do better than last year,” Plog said.

Haracic, a freshman, said it was hard to come to Texas from her home in Bosnia, but that she feels accepted.

Rather said that her goal for the year, besides bringing home a national title, is to “start building” for the future.

“We want to see players who maybe weren’t at a high level when they got here, we want to see them get to a high level,” she said. “We are building for next year.”

Rather also said that she wants to see more team spirit.

“We are doing a good job,” she said. “I hope that they become good friends, not only in school, but later in life.”

The table tennis team will compete in the NCTTA Texas Division at the Sid Richardson Center on Sunday.