By Trung Huan Nguyen (14S05A)
Photographs by Faith Lim and Amanda Chin from Photographic Society
When Denise Lim fired the shot to draw RI level with HCI in the very last match of the Girls’ Squash A Division final, the noise emanating from the crowd of Hwa Chong supporters suddenly died down. Despite losing the first two sets 2-11 and 7-11, she was on the cusp of an unbelievable fight back. At the moment when Denise equalised 10-10 in the 4th set, every single Rafflesian supporter was willing her on to close out the match.
Unfortunately, the RI girls’ squash’s fairy tale was ultimately left unfinished. The winning point of the match fell to Ruiting, an affirmation of the more consistent and confident playing style which the HCI team had adopted throughout the game. It was a well-deserved win for the HCI Girls’ Squash Team, who did incredibly well in their finals.
Our team did not get off to a good start, with Janie Siow facing Samantha from HCI in the first game. Throughout the game, Janie was kept on the defensive by Samantha’s powerful drives, dropping the first set 5-11 to her opponent.
Janie did better in the second set, attempting tricky drop shots which were difficult for her HCI counterpart to return. However, an inconsistent performance let Janie down, with HCI taking the next two sets 9-11 and 10-12, thus winning the match.
RI fielded Kimberly Chan in the second match of the day, her calm and measured playing style a stark contrast to her opponent’s energetic runs. Unused to the aggressive strategy adopted by her opponent, Kimberly lost the first set 6-11.
The second set saw Kimberly stage a comeback. Despite trailing 4-8, she racked up multiple points in quick succession, ending the set 11-9 in our team’s favour.
However, as her opponent took control of the next set by a score of 4-11, Kimberly was under massive pressure to take the next set. It was a terse and intense set, with both players neck-to-neck. Kimberly eventually edged it out 12-10.
HCI managed to close out the match by winning the last set 7-11, with Kimberly’s opponent unsettling her with venomous strikes to the corner of the court. The overall score line: HCI 2, RI 0.
Just as our supporters were about to throw in the towel, Cheryl Wong stepped up to in an attempt to turn the tide against HCI. In the first set, Cheryl raced to an early 4 point advantage, pressing home her early lead to take the first set 11-7.
Buoyed by her performance in the first set, Cheryl closed out the second set 11-2, giving her opponent no room to respond. However, a 5-point lead for HCI right from the start of the third worried many of our supporters. With the set point was called for HCI at 10-4, it took immense fortitude for Cheryl to fight back, winning 6 consecutive set points to even out the set at 10-10. In the subsequent tie-breaker, Cheryl buckled down to beat her opponent 13-10. Her joy was so overwhelming that she hugged her HCI counterpart as the match ended. It was a great show of persistence from Cheryl!
As our Captain Melissa Foo strode onto the court, her presence seemed to worry her opponent. After several rallies, the difference between the two players became more and more stark. With a rapid-fire offensive strategy, Melissa quickly controlled the game, ending the first set after a mere 3 minutes with a score of 11-2.
The second set was more of the same, with Melissa pressing home her early 8 point lead by winning the set 11-2. Soon after, Melissa dominated the third set 11-1, recording an easy win for RI. The final between RI and HCI was now tied 2-2.
Facing her rival Ruiting, whom she had lost to twice before, RI’s Denise Lim seemed to be confident before the decisive match started.
However, the first set went in HCI’s favour. Ruiting continuously drove the ball towards the dead corners, leaving Denise hardly any chance to return. The score of 2-11 for HCI deeply troubled the whole RI bench.
The second set was more balanced, as Denise directed the ball to different sides of the court, forcing her opponent to make desperate retrievals. The strategy managed to disrupt Ruiting’s playing style and limit the score line to 7-11, but was not enough for Denise to take the set. Employing this strategy in the third set, Denise stunned Ruiting 11-3, boosting her confidence as she moved to the fourth set of the game.
Unfortunately for our team, although Denise led Ruiting by 2 points early on in the fourth set, she was eventually beaten 10-12 by a dogged display from Ruiting. This marked the end of the girls’ squash final, with the championship title going to HCI by a razor-thin overall margin.
Team captain, Melissa, was gracious in the defeat. When approached by Raffles Press, she said, “I really enjoyed the competition seasons because it was through the more intensive training sessions that my team got to spend more time together and bond with each other. I’ll never forget these good memories!” We would like to congratulate the girls’ squash team for their fighting spirit, and wish them the best of luck next year in wresting the title back from HCI.