School sports: Danica Goh, 13, sparks Crescent Girls' to victory in C Div hockey final

Danica Goh celebrates after scoring the winning goal against CHIJ St Nicholas Girls. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - In April, Crescent Girls' School hockey players Danica Goh and Anisah Musfirah Khanafi were sitting in the stands when their B Division schoolmates won the championship.

The experience made them and their teammates want to replicate their seniors' success.

In the National School Games' C Division final on Thursday (Aug 18), the Crescent team did just that, beating CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' 1-0 to retain their title.

In doing so, they made history by helping their school win both national titles in the same season for the first time.

Goal-scorer Danica, 13, was ecstatic with the result. Recalling her experience as a spectator at the B Division final, she said: "Even in the stands, the pressure was already so high and our hearts were pumping so quickly. I was scared that it would multiply (exponentially) when we were the ones playing and I'm glad we got the job done."

The game had a lively start, with both teams having their fair share of chances. But Crescent slowly upped their intensity and started to dominate.

Danica squeezed the ball into the corner from a tight angle midway through the second quarter and SNGS could not find a way back.

Over 50 students and parents made their voices heard at the Sengkang Hockey Stadium, with a bunch of Crescent supporters donning colourful t-shirts and bandanas while waving flags.

With 10 seconds to go, the Crescent students started counting down before rushing onto the pitch to embrace their schoolmates at the final whistle.

Crescent captain Anisah, 13, credited pre-season friendly matches against other schools and the supporters for helping the team get the win.

She said: "I didn't have enough confidence at first but... we had quite a lot of friendly matches so I got used to the pressure.

"I felt very encouraged (by the cheering) and I had more motivation to persevere."

Crescent captain Anisah Musfirah Khanafi (with trophy) and her teammates celebrate after winning the National School Games' C Division title. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Nordin Manaff, who has been coaching Crescent for 25 years, paid tribute to his charges and thanked the school's leaders and teachers for their support over the years.

"I'm overwhelmed because this is not just the work of this year. It's the past five to 10 years of development that's got us to where we are now," he explained. "Our mentality was different this year because they followed the example set by their seniors (who were very determined in the final) and their winning mentality showed."

Nordin, 56, added that the inclusion of an indoor hockey programme three years ago helped by improving the players' ball handling skills and technique.

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Despite the loss, SNGS captain Melanie Chong, 14, said the result will motivate her teammates even more as they gear up for next year's competition.

"Regardless of the score, everyone has worked very hard and a lot have improved. We have no regrets," she said.

"We learnt a lot from different experiences (like teamwork and communication) and we hope these experiences will bring us to greater heights next year."

Her teammate Marabelle Lee broke down at the final whistle and also could not hold back her tears during a post-game interview.

She said tearily: "At every training session, we pushed ourselves 100 per cent and (today) I know we all played our best. We really have been wanting the gold and we were hoping for the win.

"But we told each other that no matter what, we would be proud of each other. So it was sad but at the same time, I was also very proud of the team and the way we played."

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