Mississippi College Table Tennis Team Earns 2nd Place at 2013 National Championships | Mississippi College | Mississippi College
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Mississippi College Table Tennis Team Earns 2nd Place at 2013 National Championships

MC table tennis players Joe Xie, Coach Ken Qiu, Jeff Huang, Cheng Li, Yang Yu and Johnson Liang holds the MC sign.

Mississippi College’s table tennis team turned in another strong performance at the national championship games in Rockford, Illinois to finish in 2nd place.

For the second straight year, MC was the runner-up to perennial champion Texas Wesleyan, with the talented men’s/coed team from Fort Worth claiming its tenth consecutive national title.

Powered by the amazing spins, slams and serves of Mississippi College’s potent foursome of Cheng Li, Zhiqiao “Joe” Xie, Yang Yu and Zhicheng “Johnson” Liang, the Choctaws defeated solid challengers like the University of Southern California and Columbia University of New York.

That set up MC’s Sunday rematch with 2012 champ Texas Wesleyan, but the Choctaws came up short by a 3-1 tally in the finals.

With Texas Wesleyan leading 2-1, noisy crowds at the Forest City Tennis Center and others watching via live streaming on their computers witnessed a hard fought finale. MC’s Yang Yu, a 27-year-old native of China, lost a two-point heartbreaker to TWU ace Jose Barbosa, a 22-year-old senior from Brazil.

A victory by Yu would have tied up the match 2-2. At that point, the coed team title would have been decided by doubles squads at the two rival schools in the South region. But Yang Yu’s late-game surge wasn’t enough and he lost 11-9.

When all was said and done, there was jubilation among Texas Wesleyan players. A few feet away, there was deep disappointment on the faces of the MC players, who battled every minute.

Getting second place for the second straight year among the very best collegiate teams in the USA and Canada remains a major achievement. “I am pretty proud of the players’ performance,” Mississippi College coach Ken Qiu said.

“We’ve done great things this year with only five players when other schools have bigger rosters and programs,” said team sponsor Andy Kanengiser, MC’s news coordinator. “Our MC team played their hearts out again at the national championships, but fell a little bit short.”

MC’s 2nd place finish exceeded the final tournament ranking for other impressive table tennis teams, including Princeton, Rutgers, the University of California- Berkeley, NYU, South Florida, Lindenwood, San Jose State, Ottawa, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Texas, Wisconsin and the University of Western Ontario.

Among the highlights, MC’s Joe Xie knocked off New York University star Michael Landers, the tournament’s No. 1-seeded player, in a Saturday singles match. A day after losing to Southern California standout Grant Li in a singles match, Cheng Li defeated him Sunday in a key match when the two coed teams clashed.

“He (Cheng Li) was really into it, right from the start,” Grant Li said after the match. “He wanted revenge. There was not much I could do.” Earlier, the USC star said Cheng Li was as good as any American collegiate player he’s faced all season.

Led by the tournament’s No. 1 doubles team of Grant Li and Justin Huang, the Southern California Trojans finished in third place with its men’s/coed team.

Texas Wesleyan Coach Jasna Rather was elated her coed squad wrapped up its tenth consecutive championship. Overall, TWU won four out of the six major trophies during the 2013 National Collegiate Table Tennis Association games in the Land of Lincoln.

The TWU women’s team finished No. 1. TWU’s Emil Santos of the Dominican Republic won men’s doubles, while TWU’s Sara Hazinski of China and Claudia Lie Ikeizumi of Brazil each took home trophies for winning the women’s doubles title. “I’m so proud of them,” Rather said of the squad.

Since the program’s inception in 2002, the Texas Wesleyan Rams have won 53 national championships in the fast-moving Olympic sport.

During the April 12-14 matches in Rockford, MC’s team was assisted by a newcomer Ying “Jeff” Huang, a business administration major from China. Xie, Yu, Liang and Huang are all natives of the Province of Guandong in China. Li, a 20-year-old freshman studying business administration, is from the East Asian country’s Yunnan Province.

President Lee Royce, Athletic Director Mike Jones and other school leaders plan to briefly recognize the Christian university’s table tennis team as part of the annual Mississippi College Sports Hall of Fame dinner on the Clinton campus. During the Saturday night program, MC officials will induct eight new members at the 6 p.m. ceremony in the B.C. Rogers Student Center.