By Marilyn Kang (17A01B)
Photos by Ethan Ong (17S06Q)
Emerging from a smooth round of preliminary matches, the Girls Water Polo Team found themselves wavering before the final grab for the champion trophy.
As the 1st quarter had drawn to a close with both sides yet to score, player Ashley Teo (17A01B), recalled how nervous everyone was in the pool. For the team, “it was worrying because we hadn’t scored by the end of the first quarter – which was, by far, our worst performance of the season.”
The loud and vigorous cheering of the rival school, ACS(I), she recounted, only served to intimidate them further. With nerves running high, the start of the game saw a series of messy formations. While the match went on, the team was confronting their own psychological battle.
This was obvious to their coach, Lim Yao Xiang, who quickly intervened. The team recounted how he had told them to focus on their game. He’d stressed that when they focus on the game and how they play, instead of chasing a score-line, “the results will naturally come”.
The effect of this timely re-orientation and encouragement was instantaneous. Returning with greater verve and focus, the team was indomitable in the second half of the match, putting up a fight that prove unshakable till the very last. The girls team thus clinched the championship with a final score of 15-1.
Of course, this victory did not come without team sacrifices. The girls’ dedication to the game shone through as one of their stronger players, Emily Luah (17S06N), persisted throughout nearly the entirety of the game in spite of a strained shoulder, which had sent her into the A&E the Sunday just before the match.
As their coach put it, “shaky start, steady heart”. With this spirit, the girls passed the baton onto the boys. In the afternoon, the boys were set to face off in a neck-to-neck battle against longtime rivals from Hwa Chong Institution.
Having encountered the Hwa Chong team in the previous round, Captain Sean Tan (17S03P) knew how formidable their opponents were. Although their last match had ended in RI’s victory, “the score [difference] wasn’t very wide”. In fact, an evaluation of their game post-match had revealed to them just how precarious this victory was: the team realised that the Hwa Chong team had worked for most of their goals, while “some of [RI’s] were actually lucky. So, in a sense, we lost.”
Indeed, the game started with a goal scored by the Hwa Chong team, a hint of the tough fight that was to come. Even as RI subsequently led an otherwise tight score margin, Hwa Chong was always hot on their heels, equalizing at 3-3 during the 2nd half.
The outcome of the match was far from predictable, and the boys demonstrated their mettle and impeccable teamwork to attain each goal. A particularly memorable goal was executed by Finian Koh (17S06P) and Lok Yan Xuan (18S03P) — in an impressive display of teamwork, one propelled the ball into the air before the goal while the other hit it straight into the goal. This signalled the beginning of a drastic change for the game.
On our side, the number of goals increased in the last quarter, with a series of three consecutive scores. With a look of fierce pride and gratitude, Sean recounted that, “When I was in the pool, I was so excited, because it gave us breathing space – and we were so relieved, because we were in a good position right now.” This advantage allowed them to clinch their victory with a score of 6-4.
The same heart of perseverance that refused to take a backseat allowed them to excel throughout the game, earning another well-deserved win for the Raffles Water Polo teams. As the two teams proudly joined the rest of the supporters, Sean can be quoted to have exclaimed, “My team is just celebrating all around – I can’t even find them.”
Through it all, both teams displayed the result of sheer hard work and determination; well done, Raffles Water Polo!