A tactical switch after a poor start enabled Nanyang Junior College (NYJC) to clinch their third straight Schools National A Division boys' volleyball title yesterday with a come-from-behind 3-1 win over Victoria Junior College (VJC).
Victoria had surprised the defending champions by winning the first set 25-19 and leading 9-5 in the second at Our Tampines Hub before NYJC regrouped and won the next three 27-25, 25-21, 27-25.
NYJC captain Lai Boon Yi, 19, said: "During the first set we weren't communicating enough. The crowd might have intimidated them so I told the players to start talking more and motivating each other. Things improved from there.
"Our coach also told us not to attack blindly and to focus on the shorter players which we didn't do at first. After that we started taking advantage of the shorter sideline players and it got better."
Nanyang's setter Nicolas Law, 17, scored the final two points in the fourth set to secure the title for his school.
He said: "After scoring the winning spike I felt complete, it was really euphoric. I would say it's one of the best moments of my life."
Despite the defeat, what mattered to VJC captain Jireh Tay, 17, was the fighting spirit shown by his teammates.
"I'm really proud of the team for winning the first set because we lost to Nanyang during the group stages and we didn't win a set then. So it shows that we have improved a lot.
"After losing two of our main players (to injury and fatigue midway through the fourth set), the game went downhill from there. But we still fought hard and pushed Nanyang to their limit."
NYJC had earlier beaten Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) 3-0 in the girls' final to clinch their fifth straight A Div title.
Nanyang captain Chloe Koh, 18, said: "There wasn't much pressure on us because we had confidence in ourselves. Winning the title for the fifth time in a row is just a bonus and an honour to the school."
HCI captain Ang Hui Wei, 18, was proud of the effort. She said: "The team this year weren't the strongest in terms of skills but were definitely strong in terms of mentality. No matter what happened we pushed through together as a team and fought for every point even when we were down and that's the Hwa Chong spirit."