A mere eight points separated Nanyang Junior College (NYJC) from their first double of boys' and girls' titles in the Schools National A Division volleyball finals yesterday at the Toa Payoh Sports Hall.
While the Nanyang girls comfortably retained their title, easing past Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) 3-0 (25-17, 25-20, 25-11), their counterparts were beaten in five riveting sets in the boys' final.
Taking on defending champions Victoria Junior College (VJC), it was a much tighter affair as NYJC were edged out 2-3 in a tense encounter.
The Nanyang boys drew first blood when they won the opening set 25-23 but VJC drew level by winning the next 25-22. After a neck-and-neck battle in the third, VJC clinched the set 28-26.
It looked as if the championship had been wrapped up by the Victorians, who led for almost the entire fourth set, but Nanyang delayed VJC's title celebration by taking the set 27-25.
Going into the fifth set, the momentum was on NYJC's side, with a raucous crowd of Nanyang students egging them on from the stands.
It was not to be a memorable NYJC rally, however, as VJC won the decider 15-7.
VJC coach Woo Kok Onn praised Nanyang's display and felt they were worthy opponents. Woo said: "We were prepared for a tough fight against Nanyang. Traditionally, they're a strong team and we expected a close game.
"The first set we didn't do well because our serve-receiving wasn't good. Second and third sets were better but the fourth set, we were in a rush.
"That's why our receiving was poor and it affected the team's play."
NYJC volleyball teacher-in-charge Tam Choon Chor said: "We lost because we lacked the experience of players who've played in these major competition finals.
"Most of them have never entered a final in their secondary school days and it was their first one against VJC. The pressure of the last set got to them."
Nanyang girls' captain Lee Xin Rou was relieved when her team beat HCI yesterday after losing to them earlier in the group stage.
The 18-year-old said: "We were actually quite scared of them (HCI) at the start but we realised that we had to pick ourselves up and prove everyone wrong.
"It was our best performance of the entire season."
Rounding off the girls' podium were VJC in third and Anglo-Chinese Junior College in fourth. For the boys, HCI finished third, ahead of Anderson Junior College.