By Lara Tan (22A01B)
Photos courtesy of Raffles Photographic Society.
If you’re anything like me—the antithesis of athleticism and general sports awareness—chances are you know very little about this game called squash.
Aside from sharing its name with a type of vegetable, Squash essentially involves players going head to head in a literal cage match conducted in a four-walled court. The game is played with a racquet and a hollow rubber ball, and players take turns hitting the ball; whoever can place the ball out of reach of their opponent while avoiding specific zones within the court wins.
The match on Monday between RI and ACS(I) kicked off with great fanfare at noon, amidst the cacophony of cheers from both sides. Being my first time spectating an actual game of squash, I couldn’t help but notice both players entering the air-conditioned glass court for every set almost seemed like observing a scientific experiment in a cold, sterile lab.
However, the atmosphere was anything but. RI and ACS(I) both boasted sizable delegations, complete with student councillors, fellow teammates, coaches and teacher-spectators. Packed into the (quite literally) warm and cosy Kallang Squash Centre, it was almost like watching a theatre production in an intimate black-box setting (minus the air conditioning and plush seats).
It was going to be a tough fight; as it turns out, the ACS(I) team was composed primarily of national junior players. But despite their daunting opponents, it was clear that the RI team was going to do its best.
The first game was fought by RI’s Elyphilet Chia (23S06F), and he put up an extremely tough fight. Off to a slightly rocky start after ACS(I)’s strong performance in the first set, Ely came back and scored 5-11 in the second set, and came even closer to winning in the third set with his impressive score of 7-11. This match was a pleasant one to watch because of the gracious gameplay, evidenced by the players’ sincere thanking of each other after the game.
Simultaneously, another game was going on, in the more low-key court right outside the main one we were in. This game was played by Ong Zhi Hao (22S06M), who was the RI player closest to winning a set with a score of 11-8 from his first. The atmosphere here was noticeably more subdued, but still supplemented by a small crowd of onlookers from each school, as well as the patriotic flag-waving going on in the background.
The third game was another exciting one to watch, thanks to Dominic Hui’s (22S03G) performance. His first set ended in a loss of 3-11 to ACSI, but he made a strong comeback in the second set, managing a respectable 7-11 score. When it came down to the final game point, Dominic was able to hold the ACS(I) player off thanks to a brilliant rally, although the point ended up going to ACS(I).
Next up representing RI was Zxan Ho (22S06S). Despite starting off strongly in his sets against his opponent, the latter eventually caught up, resulting in a defeat for RI with the final scores of his sets being 11-3, 11-4, 11-3. Nevertheless, he was cheered on enthusiastically by the Raffles delegation, and occasional fumbles from ACS(I) allowed him to win strategic points.
The last game was perhaps the most interesting one to watch, with Samuel Quek 23S06N) representing RI. Up against a formidable opponent with a rather aggressive playing style, Samuel managed to score a couple of intelligent, strategic points. However, his opponent was equally skilled in making Samuel run, often causing the RI player to end up in rather amusing positions as he reached for the ball. Several occasions, he almost fell into a split position, eliciting thunderous whoops of applause from the Raffles delegation.
It was a thrilling game to watch indeed, but eventually, the last game of the finals went to ACS(I) yet again, after ACS(I)’s masterful shots that proved difficult to return even for this very flexible squash player. And like that, the RI A Div Boys squash team had to content itself as runners-up, with ACS(I) taking the championship.
However, this was anything but an uneventful day for the Raffles team. Sanjaay Babu (22A01B) was present for match support as a councillor and as a fellow teammate. He described the atmosphere of the finals as “electric”, and how it “felt really nice to see competitive sports coming back after a 2 year lull”.
It felt so surreal knowing that it would be one of the last times we’d gather in a circle as we always have done at Squash prize presentations, sing our school song with pride, and do the unite cheer as one Raffles family.Sanjaay Babu (22A01B)
Their coach, Mr Allan Chang, also expressed that he was “very happy” with the team’s performance, as they “played well with no holding back”.
We were naturally nervous and anxious, but I believe that through the words of encouragement from our teachers and coach as well as our captains, we managed to remain calm and enjoy the process.Elyphilet Chia (23S06K)
Overall, the final was hard and well fought, and was a heartening display of Rafflesian pride, passion, soul, and most definitely speed in this exhilarating, fast-paced game. Despite ceding the championship title to ACS(I), the RI delegation was quick to cheer for ACS(I) to celebrate their victory, and their graciousness was reciprocated. And although my days as house captain were far behind me, I couldn’t help but join in on some Rafflesian cheers from the sidelines.
Raffles Press would like to congratulate the RI boys’ squash team for their excellent sportsmanship, and wish them all the best in their next inter-school games.
Zxan Ho – 22S06S
Samuel Quek – 23S06N
Elyphilet Chia – 23S06F
Ong Zhi Hao – 22S06M
Dominic Hui – 22S03G