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The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State table tennis team strives for national competitive success

Kristy Mace
Mohamed Shafie, a WSU staff member in research engineering, plays in a match of table tennis.

When new people join the Wichita State table tennis team, they are quickly told that it isn’t a run-of-the-mill ping-pong club. The team treats itself like an NCAA organization; recruiting, training and competing nationally.

Head coach P.J. Phachantry founded the team when he attended the university in 2007. He said from the start, the team was very competitive.

“Right from the get-go, my vision for it was, ‘I want us to compete nationally right away,” Phachantry said. “I don’t want us to be seen as a ping pong club. I want to be seen as a table tennis organization.”

In their first year, the team was already competing nationally. Of the division championships since 2007, containing schools like the University of Kansas, Kansas State University and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, the Shockers have won 10, the most of any team in the division.

On Feb. 14, the team wrapped up their season with another division title. Drew Smith — who is currently enrolled at Butler Community College but plays with the Shockers — and senior Chris Prout came first in doubles. Smith also won the singles event.

Phachantry said he picked up the sport at 12 years old when his dad brought him to Sunset Banquet Hall, located in south Wichita. 

“Ever since then, I’ve been here 10-12 hours a week,” Phachantry said. “It’s like a routine. It’s part of my life now.”

Phachantry said he is committed to Wichita State for the long haul.

“I’ve been in Wichita all my life,” Phachantry said. “As long as I’m here, I don’t see myself doing anything but helping the Wichita State team.”

Victor DiMartino said he began playing table tennis competitively when he was 15 years old. He decided to attend Wichita State in part because of its table tennis program.

“Wichita State was at a local tournament that I went to,” DiMartino said. “I saw them playing, and I was like, ‘Wow, this is legit,’ and I wanted to be a part of that.”

DiMartino is currently a senior and the team captain. He said he plans on helping coach the team in an official capacity in two years after he exhausts his final year of eligibility. As the captain, he already takes on a coaching and leadership role.

“There was one teammate we had,” DiMartino said. “My coach didn’t want to train with him because he had zero experience. So he was like, ‘Alright, Victor, this is on you.’ And now, he’s … the third-best player on the team right now, and he hasn’t lost in a tournament in a long time.”

Phachantry said the team’s success is partly due to community support.

“There’s a lot of schools out there that run it just like a normal club, so having that mindset has helped,” Phachantry said.

DiMartino said that while he is the top performer, the team has a deep roster of talented players that help them succeed.

“People can carry a team in basketball or soccer or baseball, but in table tennis, if you only have one good player winning one match and losing the other three, it doesn’t matter,” DiMartino said. “You could have the best player in the world on your team, but you need a strong foundation.”

This year, the team did not compete at the regional or national tournament because it was too expensive, but DiMartino said next year, the national tournament is the goal.

“I’ve been to nationals as an individual player, but I want the whole team to go to nationals and compete in the team event,” DiMartino said. “And next year, I think we can do that.”

The Wichita State table tennis team practices in the Sunset Banquet Hall on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday nights. All are welcome to join and play. For more information, visit their Facebook page.

Editor’s note: DiMartino is a current staff member of The Sunflower. We thought it crucial to include his perspective as a leader on the table tennis team.

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About the Contributors
Jacob Unruh, Assistant Sports Editor
Jacob Unruh is the assistant sports editor for The Sunflower. He is a junior at Wichita State, majoring in journalism and minoring in political science. This is Unruh's first year on staff. He goes by he/him pronouns.
Kristy Mace, Photo Editor
Kristy Mace is the photo editor for The Sunflower. She's majoring in psychology. Currently a junior, Mace hopes to go on to get her Ph.D. and become a neuropsychologist. She also plays for Wichita State's bowling team and does professional photography aside from The Sunflower.

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