SINGAPORE - Dunman High School avenged their 2019 loss to Victoria School (VS) in the Schools East Zone B Division boys' table tennis final on Monday (April 26) with a hard fought 3-1 victory over their arch-rivals.
Charlston Chu beat VS' Ang Juin Yong 11-5, 12-14, 11-5, 11-7 in the first singles to give Dunman the lead and they had looked all set to establish a comfortable 2-0 cushion over the defending champions.
But Victorians Christian Lam and Jordan Pang put a dent in those plans, securing a 12-10, 8-11, 8-11, 11-9, 11-4 comeback win over Dunman's Ryan Goh and Wang Dong Yu.
The unexpected loss, which tied the best-of-five final at 1-1, stunned Dunman captain Ryan Er and his team-mates.
The 15-year-old described the loss as "unfortunate", admitting: "We didn't really expect to lose the first doubles as that was our stronger doubles pair."
The setback meant "many of us were nervous and started panicking".
It then fell on him to ensure that the blip was momentary, and with the help of his teammates, teachers and coach, he managed to calm his nerves despite knowing that the stakes had just been elevated.
He dropped the first game to VS' Ng Ka Wei before steadying the ship to run out a 9-11, 11-6, 12-10, 11-4 winner to allow Dunman to take a 2-1 lead.
Doubles pair Leow Yu Leong and Lee Jun Rui then carved out a tense 12-10, 8-11, 11-4, 11-7 victory over VS' Daryl Tan and Brian Tan to allow Dunman to secure a 3-1 overall win.
Yu Leong, 15, said: "Even though at the back of our minds we knew we were playing the deciding match, we just tried not to think about it and instead focused on what we've learnt during our training and the hard times we had to overcome."
It was double delight for Dunman as the girls' team retained their East Zone B Division title, beating Cedar Girls' Secondary 3-1.
It was an emotional day for many of the players, boys and girls alike, as it represented the final day of competition in their secondary school careers, with the national rounds being cancelled this year.
Dunman's girls' captain Lluvia Ong said she was "super grateful" to have the chance to compete in the National School Games when other sports like basketball could not proceed.
She said: "I'm just grateful to be able to compete in my last year in junior high and end it off on a good note. Last year with Covid-19, we didn't get to compete in the competition so we tried even harder this year and gave it our all."
Despite falling short in the final, VS captain Ngan Ka Chun described being able to compete this year as a "pleasure".
While admitting that the team were disappointed with the loss, the 16-year-old added: "We had a great experience together this year and we've forged stronger bonds and relationships with each other. In the end, it doesn't really matter so much if we lose. It's sad but we tried our best."