By Cara Leong (13A01B)
The start of the match did not bode well for Raffles. It was five minutes in, and the score was 6-0 to ACJC, our biggest rival. Both schools had reached the finals unbeaten in the group stage and semi-finals, and boasted all-star players. Unable to find their footing early on in the game, ACJC’s lead in the first quarter sent the girls chasing their opponents until the very last minute and a score of 35-37.
The team struggled to get their flow in the first quarter, conceding turnovers in the center and attacking thirds to a fluid and agile ACJC. Although Goal Keeper (GK) Grace Seow made several key deflections and interceptions in the defensive third, the game was choking up in the attacking third, with Goal Attack (GA) Dawne Lim and Goal Shooter (GS) Lau Jing Han clashing in the attacking D (shooting zone). However, sharp shooting from Dawne, who put in 7 of her 8 shots, pulled the team back into the running. With a scoreline of 8:13 at the end of the first quarter, the girls had to put in three turnovers as well as their own goals in order to catch up with their opponents.
The second quarter saw much better passes, with the players appearing more confident after their strong showing the latter half of the first quarter. ACJC played a predictable game, lobbing passes to the wings which were easily anticipated by Wing Defence (WD) Kwee Yi Ning and Center (C) Amelia. GK Grace came out of her defensive D to make crucial interceptions, and the ball moved quickly in attack, but the shooters appeared hesitant, making unnecessary back-passes which were intercepted by ACJC’s quick-moving defenders. As a result, they did not manage to capitalize on better play in defense, closing the quarter with a score of 9-8, and a total score of 15-21.
In the second half, the girls brought the fight back on court, determined to catch up with their poor-passing opponents. With the substitution of Tan Ming Zhen as GS bringing new vigour into their game, the girls fought to lower the deficit to 2 goals at one point. While passes in the attacking third to the shooters continued to lack accuracy, Ming Zhen’s added height proved useful in receiving lobs against her one-time teammate, ACJC GK Ainsley Chew. At the end of the third quarter, the score was 26-30, setting up for a nerve-wracking fourth quarter.
A quick break in the fourth quarter and a pep talk from coach Ms Chng Li Li gave the girls a boost in the fourth quarter, and the effect was palpable. The quarter opened with two fast goals in the first 30 seconds, pulling the score up to 28-30. As the crowds began to roar with excitement, the score rose to 30-31, and with both teams putting in their goals, 32-33. With 6 minutes left in game, the score was 32-35, and the girls’ agitation was evident. They fought every pass in ACJC’s attack, viciously deflecting passes and sticking tightly to their players, but despite their best efforts, as the final whistle blew the scoreboard read 35-37.
While this game might have been a disappointment for the players, the talent in this team is evident. The girls showed their tenacity in fighting to the very end, and for that they are certainly winners in our books. As captain Ann Koh said, “the girls definitely gave their best shot in the game. Although we didn’t start as well as we wanted and allowed AC to lead by quite a gap in the first quarter, we never gave up, kept pushing on, fought for every ball the best we could and eventually closed the gap to 2 points at the final whistle. It was a great fight and a job well done!”