By Mandy Wong (22S03C) and Sophie Goh (22S07B)
Photos courtesy of Raffles Photographic Society.
After scoring a clean sweep of 5 matches against RVHS in the semi-finals, the RI Girls’ Badminton team returned to the courts once again to take on their long-time rival, Hwa Chong Institution (HCI), in the A Division Finals on 9 May.
Team captain Ilisha Tanasekar (22S03M) had said after the semi-final match that the team was eager to “continue their winning streak from the previous years before COVID.” Being the favourites, the team felt increased pressure to live up to their past record, which proved to be more difficult considering how the pandemic had affected their training sessions.
To achieve their goal, the RI shuttlers had to win at least 3 out of the 5 matches, which each consisted of 3 sets.
Tan Shi Bin (23S06D) leaps to deliver a shot.
Similar to the semi-finals’ lineup, Tan Shi Bin (23S06D) was once again placed as the first player of the finals matches, where she put RI at a great start by winning two sets in a row: one at 21-12 and the other at 21-8.
A key part of badminton lies in strategy – aiming for areas of the court that are difficult to reach or unguarded. This, combined with a fluid combination of netting and smashing, allowed Shi Bin to pull ahead quickly in both sets, where she scored mainly through catching her opponent off-guard with well-placed shots.
Eventually, the array of impressive moves and cool-headed strategy displayed allowed her to return from the courts with an overwhelming victory, setting the perfect momentum for the matches ahead.
Even as the first match was getting under way, it was hard not to notice the pair already preparing in an empty court. In the second match against HCI, Ilisha and Chloe Chan (23S06T) claimed another sweeping victory for RI in two sets, each scoring at 21-5 and 21-9 respectively.
With skilful execution and apt coordination, the two consistently maintained a decisive lead against their opponents even through half-time. Perhaps in order to sustain the momentum from the previous match, our shuttlers seemed to be especially careful and deliberate with their serves and drives, more so than that during the semi-finals. With Ilisha guarding the front and Chloe filling in the gaps, they clinched a quick win for their first set.
As either side got more eager to win, the second set was filled with slightly more contention: the number of attacks on both sides increased, and there were moments where points were earned solely from mistakes. By the end of the match, both girls returned to the stands with smiles on their faces and a cheerful hi-five.
Sharifah Nur Hanisah (23S06O) makes a quick defence.
After beating her RVHS opponent 2-1 in the semi-finals, Sharifah Nur Hanisah (23S06O) represented RI once again in the next singles match of the day. Despite recovering from COVID-19 a few days ago, she gamely stepped up to face her Hwa Chong opponent, composed and undeterred. She played convincingly, delivering strong smashes as she gained a lead in the early stages of the first set.
However, her opponent proved to have admirably fast reflexes, returning many seemingly impossible shots. Despite a strong showing from Sharifah, she eventually lost the first set 17-21.
The second set was even more nail-biting than the first, with both sides chasing each other to 20 points. Spectators from the RI stand yelled to cheer Sharifah on, whilst the cheers from HCI grew even more enthusiastic as they faced the prospect of winning a match. Eventually, a missed net shot caused Sharifah to narrowly lose the set 20-22, costing her the third match.
The fourth match of the day saw Alicia Ling (23S02A) and Tan Li Ting (23S06F) teamed up in a doubles game. The duo moved with quick and fluid movements, each coming in with a cheerful demeanour despite the game’s high stakes.
The first set progressed at an almost unprecedented speed; a combination of strategic shots and several mistakes from the opponent had the game sail to half-time in a matter of minutes with an 11-3 score. On one occasion, when both players from the HCI team knelt to the ground in a last-minute save, Alicia and Li Ting took the opportunity to score with a strategic drop. The two then took the rest of the game with relative ease, winning 21-16.
At this point, the tension in the stadium became almost palpable. The second set had us on the edge of our seats as both sides seemed to have become more evenly matched, adding additional drama and anxiety to this decisive set. Once again, the score crept up slowly on each side. Parents were screaming, the supporters were wild, but Alicia and Li Ting kept their cool and played on, taking every opportunity to end the rally with drops and smashes.
Tan Li Ting (23S06F) (front) and Alicia Ling (23S02A) (back) give it their all in the tense second set.
“I think we were quite tense.”Li Ting, echoing our sentiments during the game
At the 21-20 point, the RI supporters began stomping in anticipation. Both Alicia and Li Ting each delivered a smash consecutively in an effort to win the game. Finally, as the shuttlecock from the opponent landed just shy of the court’s boundaries, the crowd erupted in cheers as the RI team secured their place as the A Division champions. The duo later revealed that though they were disappointed about the set’s close 22-20 result, they were still immensely relieved at the overall outcome.
In the midst of raucous celebration, our final player, Chloe Liew (23S03J), moved towards the court with a determined look. Despite occasional fumbles, her tenacity and powerful play style more than made up for any mistakes, claiming her victory in two sets at 21-16 and 21-12 respectively.
If most of the other matches were quick and precarious, Chloe’s match was slightly different, focusing more on strong smashes and clears that earned her point after point and forcing her opponent to retaliate with equal force. Though overall victory was assured, the excitement and competitiveness of a match was not lost on either side.
Chloe Liew (23S03J) pumps her fist after scoring a point.
Once again, as the match reached its second set and fatigue and eagerness built up, mistakes like net misses began to occur—one noteworthy moment was when her opponent hit the shuttlecock into the audience. Even the RI supporters, who had returned to becoming more stoic following the previous match, began chanting “Match point!” as the score pulled up to 19-12.
At last, a final, well-delivered smash from Chloe sealed the deal, and concluded the game for the day. Players shook hands with one another and all four teams that had arrived at the finals congratulated their respective opponents with friendly faces and cheers.
Team captain Ilisha Tanasekar (left), and Clarice Beh (22S07B) (right) receiving the champions’ trophy and gold medals.
“We are very grateful for the support… and for our teachers,” vice-captain Alina Phang (22A13A) expressed. “[Our teachers] believe in us more than we believe in ourselves.”
Raffles Press would like to congratulate the Badminton A Division Girls on their remarkable achievements, and wish them the very best in their future competitions!
Badminton Girls’ Team Members
Captain: Ilisha Tanasekar (22S03M)
Vice Captain: Phang Li Ren, Alina Mesney (22A13A)
Clarice Hannah Beh Shi Li (22S07B)
Naomi Chua (22S03Q)
Xiao Jihan Stella (22S06P)
Chloe Chan Ying Xuan (23S06T)
Chloe Liew Huey Qi (23S03J)
Goh Shan Fei Faith (23S03N)
Ling Shi Hui, Alicia (23S02A)
Sharifah Nur Hanisah Binte Shaik Mohd Danial (23S06O)
Tan Li Ting (23S06F)
Tan Shi Bin (23S06D)