WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Purdue University could soon boast a national title – in ping pong.
The Purdue Table Tennis Club recently placed first in the NCTTA Fall Divisional Tournament, strengthening the team’s chances of competing in the regional and national competitions.
The Purdue Table Tennis club existed for a number of years before the COVID-19 pandemic put all its activity to a halt. Since then, slowly but surely over the years, the number of players and members has been steadily growing.
All members of the community are welcome to join the club; however, tryouts are required to be a part of the competitive team.
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“Anyone in the community can play,” Karthik Ramani, the Donald W. Feddersen Distinguished professor of mechanical engineering and faculty advisor for the Purdue Table Tennis Club said. “It’s five dollars (to play), so they can just come and play with the club. They advantage is they get some coaching with experts…or they just have fun…But it’s open to anybody in the community.”
Members of the Table Tennis Club said any fees help pay for reserving the rooms required to play ping-pong.
“Our competitive team is solely based on skill,” Kerway Tsai, club president and junior in electrical engineering, said. “It’s $5 if you just want to come to that session. But if you pay $20, you can come to any session you want throughout the semester.”
The Table Tennis Club meets 3-5 pm Sundays in the Cordova Athletic Center.
The Upper Midwest Division Fall Tournament
In the fall and spring, divisional tournaments are held through the NCTTA. Placing well, or even winning, in the fall tournament is not enough to guarantee a spot in regionals or nationals. The teams must perform well in the spring divisional tournament as well.
The teams from the upper Midwest division included Northwestern University, Notre Dame, Indiana University, University of Wisconsin at Madison, University of Illinois at Chicago and University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and Whitewater.
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“Let’s say we play against Indiana University,” Adit Shah, team captain and junior in industrial engineering, said. “So before the tournament, we have to submit a roster in which we order our players…In the tournament, you cannot change that. The fourth player cannot go play in the place of the first player.
“And so you have to keep that constant. The first player of our team would play the first player of their time (and so on with the remaining players)…If they won two of the games and we won two of the games , then it goes to the doubles (where four total players are playing, two from each team). Otherwise it does not go to the double (if it is not tied).”
According to Ramani, the competitive team beat UW Madison, Notre Dame, UIC and UW Milwaukee. The final two matches were against the top two teams in the Midwest – NWU and IU. The matches ended up leading to a doubles-tie-breaker, wherein Avery Chan – according to Ramani, their team’s No. 1 single player.
Shah defeated IU, one of the top teams in the area.
Celebrating the victory
Being the self-proclaimed “underdogs” of the tournament, the win was not expected, especially when facing off against some of the historically top-placing teams in the Midwest. That being said, the win was a welcome and much celebrated one.
“We were kind of overwhelmed,” Shah said. “And in the middle of the tournament, I personally was feeling that we can make it. You just have to believe in it. If you think that you can do it, you will be able to do it.
Ramai and Tsai also provided their initial thoughts after learning about the team’s victory.
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“I wasn’t physically there, but when I heard the knows, obviously I was super proud of the team of course,” Tsai said. “Honestly, it was quite exhilarating. As I said, we were underdogs, right, so I didn’t really expect us to be able to go that far. Honestly the team just surprised me, they really played their best. I’m really happy for you.”
Ramani was able to witness the team’s victory in-person at the tournament. He reflected on how this win will hopefully spread knowledge of the club and team’s existence on campus and in the community to bring in more members.
“This started as my hobby and it’s become my passion to make this sport better known on campus and help the team members in all possible ways,” Ramani said. “…It’s an exciting game.”
What the future looks like for the Table Tennis Club
As previously mentioned, the upcoming spring divisional tournament will determine whether the Purdue Table Tennis team makes it to regionals, followed by nationals; the later being a tournament the team has yet to make it to.
“We’re looking to hopefully strengthen the team a little bit,” Tsai said. “Probably will put on some more practice sessions because as you know, we’re more of a casual club. We’re not focused solely on competitive (events), we’re here to raise awareness for table tennis as well as have a community for players from around the world to just come and hang out.
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“…(Making it to the national competition) would be amazing for sure…Honestly it would mean the world, I guess.”
Shah made a point of comparing the NCAA for basketball and the NCTTA for table tennis in that they are equal to each other, and he wants to show what is at stake at this tournament.
“More often than not, (people) do not consider it as a competitive sport,” Shah said. “So if you win the nationals at this stage, like NCTTA is the same as NCAA for basketball. It’s the same thing. So if we win the NCTTA, it would be a big (deal) for the community in the (perspective) of table-tennis).”
Information on joining
While tryouts for the competitive team will not be announced until January 2023 – to be announced in the mailing list’s emails – students and members of the community are always welcome to casually play as part of the club.
Visit the team’s Instagram page to learn more about playing casually or competitively as well as upcoming events.
Margaret Christopherson is a reporter for the Journal & Courier. Email her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @MargaretJC2.