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Released April 6, 2005

SOUTHERN MISS TABLE TENNIS TEAM FINISHES SECOND IN NATION

HATTIESBURG – 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, Texas.

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 tournament.

“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.

“We 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.

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April 20, 2005 2:40 PM