by Samuel Loh (16A01A)
The sun burnt bright Tuesday morning, while Raffles Institution’s A Division water polo girls geared up for their season’s finals against Temasek Junior College. Burning brighter was spectator Zhu Deng’s (16S07D) immeasurable confidence in the girls’ abilities, evident as he told us, “I feel burning — burning with excitement, burning with passion for my school, and for the team.” Such was the sheer anxiousness amidst the bleachers as supporters eagerly awaited a highly-anticipated finals matchup, which hopefully would bring home RI’s 9th consecutive victory in the Girls’ Water Polo event.
Having defeated Hwa Chong Junior College with a resounding victory of 18-0 in the previous round, Raffles Institution’s A Division girls shot into the finals confident and ready to close the season to the best of their abilities. The first quarter began with little delay, and RI’s aggressive playing style was almost immediately felt across the pool. Chan Fang Yi (16S06R) opened the rally with an impressive display of agility, gaining possession of the ball for the defending champions. 2 near scores quickly set TJC on the defensive. Finally, a third try at the goal following a half-pool sprint saw Rachel Lee (15S03K) score RI’s first point of the game, followed closely by another from Fang Yi. Keeper Stephanie Sim (15S07B) attempted to block a weighty shot at their goal, but the ball barely floated past through to TJC’s advantage. A return score by Madeline Quek (15S07C) concluded the first quarter with RI in a solid 3-1 lead.
The second quarter kickstarted with a fierce struggle for possession of the ball, with TJC attempting a pass on the goal but to no avail. Precise and coordinated passes by the girls sustained great pressure on TJC’s goal. Madeline’s stunning feint widened the score gap to 4-1 in favor of RI, and the Rafflesian team appeared to be going strong.
An action-packed third quarter started with an early goal from RI, raising the count to 5-1, but TJC promptly responded in kind to make it 5-2. A pass of remarkable accuracy brought the ball within scoring range of TJC’s goal, but deflected off Rachel’s shoulders before she could take the shot. Nevertheless, outstanding defence by Stephanie broke the momentum of TJC’s seemingly unrelenting attack without conceding any further goals. Back on the offensive, RI proceeded to score two more goals off the backs of Madeline and Nicole Ong (15S06D). As the thirty-second shot clock inched its way closer and closer to zero, and TJC reinforced their dogged defense, the crowd roared as Rachel scored from the half-court, further pushing the advantage to a comfortable 8-2. A final quarter saw Raffles preserve its six-point lead, largely in part to our concerted defence.
Our girls performed extraordinarily, emerging victorious on a comfortable 8-2 margin and earning themselves the title of national champions for the ninth year running. An illustrious history meant that the A Division girls had entered this season with the greatest of expectations foisted upon them. Yet, there was no question they had done themselves, each other, and the school proud. If anything at all, they certainly lived up to their name — and more.
Team member Andrea Low (16A01A), who was unable to play due to an injury, told us, “I’m really excited and happy for them because we’ve been anticipating this match for so long and we’ve grown so much closer training for our season. You can just feel that it’s really a team thing.” Andrea’s encouragements were audible throughout the match as she cheered her team on wholeheartedly, and she rushed over to join the celebrations.
It was a well-deserved win — the team’s demonstration of seamless teamwork and mutual support for each other was only rivalled by their fiery determination. Team captain Richelle Ang (15S06B) describes their journey and thoughts, “It wasn’t smooth sailing to get to this stage, but I feel relieved and grateful to everybody that helped us make it this far. It’s really all about the process.”