February 16, 2016The number one team in table tennis is back in action this spring semester. The Choctaws on the Table Tennis team are ready to start defending their first place spot in the United States Table Tennis rankings. After winning the local tournaments, most of them in Mississippi, they will head to Texas, where Texas Wesleyan University is hosting the regional tournament on their campus.
A quick survey of MC’s campus showed that some students do not know about the MC Table Tennis team, much less that they are the current National Champions and United States number one team. Their roster and schedule page are not found in the Choctaws web page with all the other varsity sports. So the coach and captain of the team, Cheng Li, spoke with the Collegian and explained how the sport works on a college level.
According to him, the tournaments and the results are based on the team accomplishments, not on individual outcomes. The teams play four singles matches and one doubles match, the school that wins three matches first is the winner of the round, and so on until the finals.
Li has been coaching the team for two years now, and it was under his direction that the MC team reached the top position in the sport. “It is a great feeling. Four years ago when I joined the team, every year we would get really close to win the championship and lose. Last year we did it, and being the captain and coach of the top team in the United Stated is a rewarding and comforting position,” he said. Li, who is graduating in December with a Business Administration major, is from China and explained the relationship that the Asian country keeps with the sport. “Table tennis is by far the most played sport in China. It is the equivalent to American football or basketball here in the United States,” he said. “We had some American players on the team before, one from Mississippi and another one from Alabama, but the majority has always been Chinese athletes,” said the captain.
For this season, the objective of the team is to keep practicing hard, to do the best they can, and ultimately to maintain the top position in table tennis in the country. However, the challenges are right around the corner. In the Regional Championship, the one that gives the chance to teams play the National Championship, they will have to play against Texas Wesleyan University, and according to Li, they are one of the biggest threats to the Choctaws. “They have a very solid program there. They have about 30 players, 15 male and 15 females, plus two coaches and graduate assistants. They have been a big challenge for us, but we overcame them before, and we are focused to do it again,” he said.
Another challenge for the team awaits if they make to the National Championship. There it is most likely that they will have to play against the University of California Berkeley, which according to Li, is also one of the favorites to triumph. “They are also very competitive, and we always have close matches against them,” he said. “They even have a player in their roster that plays on the American Olympic team, if this gives you an idea of how high the level of the challenge is set for us,”
The MC table tennis team’s ultimate goal is to maintain their first place ranking. The Choctaws are working hard to win regionals so that they can play in the national championship game. They are aiming to keep MC as the top university in the U.S in table tennis.
-Marcelo Maziero, Contributing Writer
this article appeared in Vol. 97, Issue 8 of The Mississippi Collegian