Mississippi College Table Tennis Team Ranks Second at 2012 Championships
April 16, 2012
Mississippi College’s powerful table tennis team played their best games of the season in the 2012 championships and emerged from the Texas tournament ranked No. 2 in North America.
In their fifth season, the MC Choctaws played with passion as they upset second seeded Lindenwood University of Missouri before losing to perennial champion Texas Wesleyan.
Consisting of outstanding players from China and one superb Mississippian from Clinton, MC’s coed team stunned Lindenwood Sunday at the Plano Sports Authority facility by a 3-1 score. The Choctaws’ super season soon came to an end when falling to the TCU Rams by the same 3-1 margin.
For Texas Wesleyan, the New York Yankees of collegiate table tennis, it marked their 9th consecutive national championship.
Prior to the April 13-15 tournament in the Lone Star State, MC was listed as No. 3 in National Collegiate Table Tennis rankings of the 158 colleges in the U.S. and Canada that field squads. When the three-day tournament was over, MC was ranked higher than such potent teams as San Jose State, Toronto, Southern California, Princeton, California, Wichita State, Ohio State, Penn State and Columbia.
There were 24 men’s/coed teams, a dozen women’s teams, and singles play for 76 men and 36 women. A total of 250 players took part in the competition in the city near Dallas.
Led by coach Ken Qiu, the MC Choctaws battled from the moment the games started on Friday.
Live streaming of the NCTTA games was picked up by fans of the Olympic sport across the world, from Brazil to China to Mississippi.
“We are so proud of the play and commitment of these student athletes and the honor they brought to Mississippi College,” said Diana Brackenridge, director of MC’s Office of Global Education. “They conducted themselves so well on and off the court by winning graciously, and giving credit to the university, their professors, teammates and coaches.”
MC Vice President for Academic Affairs Ron Howard, a regular fan at the university’s Dixie Division tournaments at the Baptist Healthplex in recent years, was elated. “Talk about a modern David and Goliath saga! The MC team is nothing short of phenomenal.”
Making the six-hour drive with his teammates, MC senior Ben VanHorn of Clinton returned to the national tournament for a second consecutive year after playing in the 2011 tournament in Rochester, Minnesota.
“It’s nice to be here to support everyone. I’m proud of everyone,” said VanHorn, the son of MC School of Christian Studies Dean Wayne VanHorn. “I’ve taken on more of a cheerleader role.”
While the overall level of play among the two dozen teams may not be quite as high as 2011 when star players like Texas Wesleyan’s Mark Hazinksi were around, “it’s still crazy,” Ben VanHorn said. “I’m amazed how our school was able to hold its own.”
One of the big upsets came Saturday when Yang “Micah” Yu defeated Texas Wesleyan’s No. 2 player in singles after losing to the same player in the national championships a year ago. In a close match, Yang Yu lost to eventual 2012 singles champion Fernando Yamazato of Brazil in the semi-finals.
Others turning in solid performances all weekend included such strong players such as Yuliang “Bill” Cai, a senior in his last tournament for Mississippi College, Zhicheng “Johnson” Liang, Zijun June” Yang, and Joe Xie.
“Coach Ken Qiu deserves a good deal of the credit for helping get the team prepared for the nationals by taking them to a tournament hosted by Lindenwood earlier this month,” said Andy Kanengiser, the MC team sponsor who worked the event as the NCTTA’s media man.
“MC played exceptionally well in Missouri and also put up a good fight when they finished second behind Texas Wesleyan in the Atlanta regionals,” he said.
While Qiu has used up his four years of eligibility as an MC player and captain, the native of China and staffer with MC’s Office of Global Education “has proven he can coach with the best of them in North America,” says Kanengiser, a longtime table tennis player and the university news coordinator.
A year ago, Mississippi College’s table tennis team finished in 5th place at the 2011 national championships in Minnesota.
Driving back from Texas Monday Qiu said his father, a professor at a university in China and table tennis coach, was thrilled to watch the tournament via live streaming. “We tried our best,” Qiu said. “Thanks to all the supporters and friends in Texas. It seemed like they were all cheering for our team.”
Photo: Mississippi College table tennis team at the 2012 National Championships in Texas.