All kinds of obstacles were placed in Raffles Institution's (RI) path in their quest for 10 consecutive Schools National A Division girls' water polo titles.
From a virus that blighted half the team to serious injuries, the team hurdled past them to assert their dominance over St Andrew's Junior College (SAJC), winning yesterday's final 20-2 to complete their perfect 10.
"We were all really excited coming into this match because we trained really hard for this," said RI captain Abielle Yeo. "But we were also worried because our team has been hit by sickness and injury, so we didn't know if some our team- mates would even be able to play.
"Our school really provides us with a lot of support, so this is our way of giving back to them," she said.
Pre-season, the squad was decimated by an outbreak of the hand, foot and mouth disease that saw half the team quarantined. Goalkeeper Samantha Ang tore a ligament in her hand while Ng Yu Qin, who was a part of last year's winning team, broke a leg and only returned to action in yesterday's final at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.
SAJC captain Naomi Wong said that while defeat was disappointing, it was still an achievement for the team to make it all the way.
"This time last year, we had only two JC1 students in our team. So it's amazing that we were eventually able to form a team that led us all the way to the finals," she said.
RI started strong, scoring eight goals in the first quarter, while SAJC managed just one. "We were too eager to score in the first quarter. So in the second quarter, we started to defend more," said SAJC vice-captain Andrea Sim McWhinney.
Still, RI's superiority was clear for the rest of the match.
In the boys' A Division finals, RI edged out Hwa Chong Institution 10-8 on penalties, after a 6-6 tie at full time. "We did practise penalty shoot-outs because our coach wanted to prepare us for every possible outcome. It paid off as when the time came, we were mentally ready," said RI captain Jared Lim.