SINGAPORE - Trailing 16-5 in the second set of the National C Division boys' volleyball final on Tuesday (Aug 30), defending champions Bukit Panjang Government High School realised their hunt for back-to-back titles was about to get trickier.
They had won the first set 26-24 and captain Tristan Foo admitted that the team became a bit too relaxed in the second set, allowing Hwa Chong Institution to outplay them.
Unleashing a few powerful spikes, the team also rallied to force errors from Hwa Chong but it was not enough as their rivals won the second set 25-22.
But they built on the momentum to turn the tables on Hwa Chong in the decider, winning 25-12 to claim their second consecutive C Division title at Our Tampines Hub. It was also their second championship trophy this season after winning the West Zone final earlier this year.
Tristan, 14, was proud of his teammates for not giving up and for working to improve their teamwork before the final.
He said: "We didn't cover each other as much as we did when playing in the West Zone competition. During nationals, we were a bit broken but when we came to the final, it's like we were back together as one piece.
"We listened to our coach during and after each match on how we should improve and cover each other like going nearer to each other and running for every ball."
Teammate Aariz Aydan Faizal, who made his presence felt by delivering a few key blocks, was pleased to clinch the title in his first volleyball competition since picking up the sport one and a half years ago.
The Secondary 2 student said: "We've progressed a lot throughout the season. We learnt many lessons from the West Zone competition and trained harder for nationals.
"It's a privilege for us to compete and I'm very grateful we could because our bond is stronger now."
The girls' final, also at Our Tampines Hub, was a more straightforward affair as Nanyang Girls' High School beat Hua Yi Secondary School 25-12, 25-20 to regain the title they last won in 2018.
Spiker Tan Le Xuan was elated to win her first championship.
She said: "It's very satisfying and I think I finally managed to show what I can do. Our team is very happy about this. The whole time, we were expecting ourselves to keep playing our best in every game."
To prepare for the season, the team trained thrice a week during the June holidays for six hours each session and also played friendly matches against other schools like Temasek Polytechnic.
Nanyang captain Goh Liang En, 14, said: "Our morale was quite low (when we first started training together) and our chemistry wasn't as good as it is now because we weren't close to each other due to Covid-19. But we trained very hard and that's what got our chemistry to become good."
Setter Lin Kailuo added: "I think my mentality was really stable throughout the competition (which helped me do well). When the opponents shout, I just keep calm and encourage my teammates."