Defending the Gold: Squash Girls’ Finals 2019

By Shervon Lee (19S06A)
Photographs courtesy of Koh Jia Hao (20S06M) of Raffles Photographic Society

As the students strolled into Kallang Squash and Tennis Centre on the 30th of April, they were greeted by the sharp thuds on the walls. With practiced grace, the squash girls continued their warm-ups, hitting the ball at length along the wall. Soon enough, the referees took their seats in the middle of the stands and the girls filed out of the court, glowing with sweat and determination. In the silence that followed, the first player Eda Lee (20S03Q) held her racket up. With a swift stroke, the ball was served, and the championships were in play.

This year, Raffles was up against long-time rivals Anglo-Chinese Junior College (ACJC) once again. Having taken the championship from ACJC last year, the team was back to defend their title. It was not going to be easy, as ACJC girls are formidable rivals, and the line-up especially promised some difficult match-ups. However, the squash girls calmly took their seats on the stands, their eyes fixed on Eda as she darted around the court with agility.

Despite the strong front put up during the warm-ups, Eda lost the first set narrowly, by a score of 9-11. The squash team’s nerves were palpable as they cheered loudly for Eda to “take it back”. Despite the tough competition, Eda pulled through, heeding the team’s calls with a win of 11-8.

 

A spectacular service made by Eda.

Taking advantage of the momentum, Eda’s sharp shots echoed in the spectator stands. With every drive, smash and drop, she inched closer to victory. Finally, Eda emerged victorious, to the raucous cheers of the spectators. They had one win in the bag now, and with two strong senior players, Nicole Tong (19S06E) and Sneha Sivakumar (19S03J) up next, Raffles didn’t have much to worry about.

Sneha playing the game with poise and elegance.

Having had years of practice under their belts, Nicole and Sneha played their respective matches with ease, both bagging the win with wide scorelines. With their eyes alert and legs ready for a far lunge anytime, the two hit the ball flawlessly to attain every point. The spectators cheered loudly when Sneha stepped out of the court. The championship was theirs, but the team was not satisfied. Ashley Fok (20S07C) stepped into the court, visibly nervous.

Luckily, her nerves soon proved unfounded, as she clinched the next two sets with quick hard drives that hit the glass wall behind her. However, it was not an easy two sets. Ashley’s opponent smashed at every opportune moment; one of the particular difficult shots to return saw Ashley whacking the ball against the back wall and relying on brute strength to get the ball back to the front.

Ashley’s long limbs assisting her in her quest to return the ball.

Ashley faltered in the third set, losing 8-11. By then, her shirt was drenched in sweat, and her determination was wavering. “There were moments where I felt like giving the point up,” she recounted, “but hearing the cheers of encouragement from my team, class and supporters really spurred me on to push through my exhaustion, point by point.” And push through she did, eventually emerging victorious, with the final set score mirroring the one she had lost, 11-8.

By then, the spectators were finally getting a hang of the game and the intensity. The excitement grew as Ang Hwee En (20S03M) stepped into court. Up against the strongest player in ACJC, Hwee En had a difficult game ahead of her. She started out strong, clinching the first set with ease with a score of 11-5.

Hwee En, in full swing.

However, the next set caught Hwee En off guard, and she lost 5-11. Hwee En returned to the third set with renewed energy. With quick volleys and long shots, she fought back from a point deficit of 8-1 to 8-8, before pulling to a deuce of 10-10. However, she eventually lost the set.

In a tough position now, Hwee En had to win the next two sets to clinch the victory for herself. Impressively undeterred in the face of defeat, Hwee En kept her cool and played even harder than before. In between almost every point in the last set, both players were seen doubling over to catch their breaths. Even to someone who may not fully understand the sport, the fatigue could be felt from outside the court. Hwee En’s efforts ultimately paid off, and she sealed the championship, ending the finals with a bang.

Hwee En reaching for victory.

“I’m very proud of y’all!” Captain Nicole practically shouted to her team right before the prize presentation ceremony, beaming widely. “I think all of y’all fought very hard today, good job!” Her excitement was contagious, as the rest of the team grinned just as hard, slapping each other on the back despite the sweat.

Fluid strokes that send the ball flying quickly towards the wall, followed by the gentle thudding of the ball as the opponent returns. That’s squash, to the average supporter in the stands. To the athletes, however, squash meant hours of training, fighting against overwhelming odds on court, and pushing through the exhaustion in your legs to run for every ball.

With this being the second consecutive gold for the team, the juniors are definitely determined to keep the championship gold next year as well. “We will continue to train hard and motivate each other,” Ashley said determinedly. Adding on to that, Hwee En only had a thumbs up to give, as she was catching her breath from her tiring game.

Raffles Press congratulates the team on the win, and wishes them all the best for their interschools next year!

Raffles Squash Girls’ Team 2019.

Results

Lee Yong Qi, Eda3-19-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-7
Nicole Tong3-011-0, 11-0, 11-3
Sneha Sivakumar3-011-1, 11-1, 11-3
Ashley Fok3-111-5, 11-4, 8-11, 11-8
Ang Hwee En3-211-5, 5-11, 10-12, 11-6, 11-4

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