– The University of Southern Mississippi table
tennis team was determined to win a national title at the National Collegiate
Table Tennis Championship. It came about as close as anyone can without taking
home the trophy.
Seeded second in the three-day tournament,
Southern Miss took defending national champion Texas Wesleyan to the wire Sunday
in the finals of the National Collegiate Table Tennis Championship in Forth Worth,
In the fourth game of the finals, team captain Chandramouli
Shankaren, the Golden Eagles’ No. 2 player, came within one point of defeating
Texas Wesleyan’s No. 3 player, Dinko Kranjac, which would have forced a
tiebreaking doubles match. Southern Miss instead lost 3-1 in the Davis Cup-style
“You wouldn’t believe how silent
the arena of several hundred hometown fans got when we were one point from winning
that match and forcing a fifth and deciding match. It was total silence, except
for a few guys screaming for Southern Miss,” said Dr. Adel Ali, team manager
and club director.
Ali said all the pressure was on
Texas Wesleyan, which spends about $40,000 a year on its table tennis program.
The Rams have a full-time coach and recruit players with scholarships. Southern
Miss, like most of the 20 universities competing at the championship, does not
offer scholarships or have a full-time coach.
gave them a run for their money. We started out strong on Friday, got our confidence
with each win, and were confident things would go our way. They didn’t,
but there’s always next year,” Ali said.
Southern Miss defeated seven teams on its run to the championship match, including
Canada’s top table tennis team. Ali said he used the trip as an opportunity
to sell Southern Miss’ program to some of the nation’s top players.
“I think finishing runner-up to the national
champions will greatly increase our name recognition as we continue to build our
program,” he said.
Nara “Tiger” Ramakrishnan,
the tournament’s 17th-seeded player, said he was proud of Southern Miss’
improved success. Last year, the Golden Eagles went into the tournament ranked
ninth in the nation and finished 16th after losing to eventual champ Texas Wesleyan.
“This was quite an accomplishment for us. Our
hopes are to win a national championship next year,” Ramakrishnan said.