SINGAPORE - Ngee Ann Secondary School student-supporters were in full force at the East Zone C Division girls' volleyball final on Friday (July 22), holding colourful and glittery signs encouraging their team to be "loud and proud" and "never quit".
The Ngee Ann volleyballers followed those signs to a T, always shouting "mine, mine!" or huddling together for a collective shout of encouragement as they came from behind to beat Dunman High School 23-25, 25-12, 26-24 in a thrilling final at St Hilda's Secondary School.
It is also Ngee Ann Secondary School's first title in the category in nearly 10 years, as the C Division competition returns after a two-year hiatus.
The team had made a mental note to work on their communication, said captain Thanathorn Umathorn, who noticed that it had been "off" during the semi-finals a few days earlier.
"We didn't do anything special in training to improve it but we knew it was something we could work on," said the Secondary 2 student.
"I'm really proud of my team because we've worked very hard and I'm glad that we could showcase what we've been working on in training."
After losing the first set, she admitted that morale had been low among her teammates as it was the first time they had lost a set this season, but they were confident they could win the next two sets.
"Our supporters, coaches and teachers were all telling us we were playing well and that we could get back into the game and win in three sets - which we did," added the 14-year-old Thai.
Ngee Ann's Emiko Lau, whose spikes helped her team clinch victory, thanked the team's supporters and teachers and also paid tribute to the opponents.
She added: "Our team spirit really helped us get this win because we didn't have a very good start but we could hear the rest cheering for us and it made me feel like I wasn't alone. Without them, we wouldn't have made it this far."
But the team will not be resting on their laurels. After a celebratory meal, they will return to training in preparation for the national competition; volleyball is the only sport that will be contested at both the C Division and national levels.
The top four teams from each zone will compete in the nationals, which are set to start soon.
Dunman captain Anicia Chan is looking forward to competing at a higher level and learning from other schools around Singapore.
"Even though we lost today, I told my teammates the results don't matter, it's more about the skills and values we show on court.
"We've made it to nationals and we will train harder for it because there'll be more pressure and we'll get more tired but at the end of the day, I'm proud of them no matter what."
In the boys' final, defending champions Victoria School were also made to work for their victory, eventually triumphing 25-23, 20-25, 25-17 against first-time finalists Geylang Methodist School (Secondary).
Victoria captain Christian Lam said: "We've put in the hard work during training and during the game. We worked very well together and the team spirit paid off.
"Last year, we had to do a lot of online training because of Covid-19 so it was mainly individual physical training in a confined space and there was very little that could be done.
"We were very excited to compete in C Division and I'm glad we have the opportunity to go to nationals because we can get more exposure. We're confident of winning it, but not over-confident, because we've trained so hard and we can only strive for first and nothing else."
Teammate Davion Toh, 14, added: "It's nice to experience working in a team, especially since we started together from the bottom. It's very wholesome to see our hard work pay off."
Cedar Girls' School were third in the girls' event followed by Chung Cheng High School (Main), while Pasir Ris Secondary and St Hilda's Secondary's boys' teams were third and fourth respectively.