Amid the boisterous cheers of "Raffles dynamite" and "ACJC all the way" at the Schools National A Division girls' squash final yesterday, one voice rang loud and clear above the hubbub.
That voice belonged to Raffles Institution (RI) captain Nicole Tong, whose constant reminders to her teammates to "fight all the way" aided in the defending champions' 5-0 win over Anglo-Chinese Junior College (ACJC) at the Kallang Squash Centre.
When Eda Lee was down a set and 4-2 in the second set of the first match, the 16-year-old RI student admitted she was spurred on by the "Go Eda" chants from Nicole and other teammates.
"The cheers helped us gain confidence to win our matches," said Eda, who beat Moey Jia Jia 9-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-7 to give RI the lead.
"When I first joined squash, training was quite tough but Nicole pushed us on. I think her encouragement helped pull us through," said Eda.
Nicole then channelled her energy on court, thrashing Jewel Tan 11-0, 11-0, 11-3 in the second match.
Sneha Sivakumar sealed RI's victory with a convincing 11-1, 11-1, 11-3 win over Hazel Chua in the third match.
I'm really proud of them because they really fought till the end, even when they were down. I think we fed off each other's energy.
NICOLE TONG, Raffles Institution captain, on winning the Schools National girls' A Division squash title.
While RI had the title in the bag, Nicole continued cheering for teammates Ashley Fok and Ang Hwee En in the fourth and fifth matches, shouting "That's the way" whenever her teammates hit a winner.
It worked as Ashley beat Monica Lim 11-5, 11-4, 8-11, 11-8 while Hwee En edged ACJC captain Lee Rui Xin 11-5, 5-11, 10-12, 11-6, 11-4 to complete the rout.
A cheery Nicole admitted she did not expect a resounding victory.
The 18-year-old said: "There was a lot of pressure on us because the matches could go either way, depending on how each player played.
"Like when Eda lost the first set, that was worrying. But in these circumstances, we just had to keep our cool.
"I'm really proud of them because they really fought till the end, even when they were down. I think we fed off each other's energy.
"Everyone should be cheering each other on and encouraging one another when we're down.
"I like to think of my role as more of facilitating that because my teammates also encourage me and that's how we stay together."
Her sentiment was echoed by coach Allan Chang, who put the team together only in March due to a lack of players.
"Nicole pushes the girls very hard and helps with the moral support, like with her cheers. She's a brilliant player and a good captain.
"It's really unexpected that we've come so far but these girls did well the entire tournament. They trained really hard for it and played very well."
Rui Xin, 17, said: "We had a few tough opponents along the way and I think we played extra well this year.
"Through teamwork, we were able to get this far so I'm very proud of them."