Mississippi College

MC Table Tennis Team Defeats Perennial Champion Texas Wesleyan in Regional Tournament

March 4, 2013

Mississippi College’s table tennis team brought their “A game” of amazing spins, slams and serves to the table to edge perennial national champion Texas Wesleyan University in a regional tournament in New Orleans on Sunday.

Led by outstanding players like Cheng Li, Joe Xie, Yang Yu and Zhicheng “Johnson” Liang, all natives of China, MC’s team was weary, but finished on top during action at the New Orleans Table Tennis Club.

Fans of the fast-moving Olympic sport expect Mississippi College and Texas Wesleyan’s coed teams will square off again at the National Collegiate Table Tennis Association’s championships in mid-April in Rockford, Illinois.

Texas Wesleyan’s powerful coed team defeated Mississippi College by 3 games to 1 at the 2012 national championships in Plano, Texas. MC’s strong No. 2 ranking last season was achieved in only its fifth year of competition.

TWU’s coed team has won the national collegiate table tennis championship every year since 2002. TWU and another dynamo, Lindenwood University in Missouri, are the only two schools that offer full scholarships to a number of their outstanding table tennis players.

Word of the Mississippi College triumph in the Big Easy caused a buzz in the collegiate table tennis world in North America. “Wow!” is how Cyrus Aga, coach of the University of Western Ontario Mustangs table tennis teams in Canada, summed things up in one word on his Facebook post.

The one-day regional tournament saw coed teams from states like Georgia, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Florida, and Alabama playing matches that lasted from the morning through the evening hours. Singles events also took place Sunday in the Crescent City.

After Texas Wesleyan’s rare defeat in New Orleans, NCTTA President Willy Leparulo said he anticipates the TWU Rams, led by Coach Jasna Rather, will step up their practices on the Fort Worth campus in the weeks before the 2013 national championships. It was only the first time that TWU’s coed team has lost to a non-scholarship school like MC.

“You all know what that means,” Leparulo told table tennis fans on the NCTTA’s Facebook site today. “They’re going to practice harder and come out for blood at the championships.” The tournament in Illinois will bring 250 of the best collegiate table tennis players in the U.S. and Canada from three dozen schools for three days of competition.

Mississippi College table tennis coach Ken Qiu and the other MC players were overjoyed with the victory, but exhausted as they pulled into Clinton at 2 a.m. Monday after the drive from New Orleans.

A longtime fan of the team, Rhoda Royce, wife of MC President Lee Royce, added her congratulations to the university’s players this morning.

But there’s no rest for the weary.

“Winning the regionals was huge, but Mississippi College’s players will need to keep practicing hard at Alumni Gym to get prepared for the nationals,” said Andy Kanengiser, the team’s sponsor and the university news coordinator. “I’m anticipating Coach Qiu will have them fired up and ready once again on the national stage.”

Other top squads invited include the University of California led by Peter Li, a member of the U.S. Olympic Team, Princeton, Lindenwood University, which had the No. 1 women’s team last season, and teams from Canada, to name a few.

There are about 160 collegiate table tennis teams that play NCTTA tournaments across the USA and Canada.           

Photo: Mississippi College table tennis stars Cheng Li and Joe Xie flank team coach and former captain Huan "Ken" Qiu after a lengthy practice at MC's Alumni Gym in late February.

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