SINGAPORE - Amid the boisterous cheers of "Raffles dynamite" and "ACJC all the way" at the Schools National A Division girls' squash final on Tuesday (April 30), one voice rang loud and clear above the hubbub.
That voice belonged to Raffles Institution (RI) captain Nicole Tong, whose constant reminders to her teammates to "fight all the way" aided in the defending champions' 5-0 thrashing of Anglo-Chinese Junior College (ACJC) at the Kallang Squash Centre.
When her teammate Eda Lee was down a set and 4-2 in the second set to Moey Jia Jia in the first match, the 16-year-old RI student said she was spurred on by Nicole's "Go Eda" cheers, as well as other teammates.
"The cheers helped us gain confidence in our plays and possibly helped us win our match," said Eda, who beat Jia Jia 9-11, 11-8, 11-9, 11-7 to give RI the lead.
"When I first joined squash, training was quite tough but Nicole pushed us on. I think her encouragement helped pull us through."
Nicole then channelled her energy on court, thrashing Jewel Tan 11-0, 11-0, 11-3 in the second match before returning court-side to resume her cheering.
Sneha Sivakumar then confirmed RI's victory with a convincing 11-1, 11-1, 11-3 win over Hazel Chua in the third match.
While RI had the victory in the bag, Nicole continued cheering for teammates Ashley Fok and Ang Hwee En in the fourth and fifth matches, shouting "That's the way!" whenever her teammates hit a winner.
It worked, as Ashley beat Monica Lim 11-5, 11-4, 8-11, 11-8 while Hwee En edged ACJC captain Lee Rui Xin 11-5, 5-11, 10-12, 11-6, 11-4 to complete RI's rout .
A cheery Nicole admitted she did not expect a resounding victory.
The 18-year-old said: "There was a lot of pressure on us because the matches could go either way depending on how each player played. Like when Eda lost the first set, that was worrying. But in these circumstances, we just had to keep our cool. I'm really proud of them because they really fought till the end even when they were down.
"I think we fed off each other's energy... Everyone should be cheering each other on and encouraging one another when we're down. I like to think of my role as more of facilitating that because my teammates also encourage me and that's how we stay together."
Her sentiment was echoed by her coach Allan Chang, who put this team together only last month due to a lack of players.
"Nicole pushes the girls very hard and helps with the moral support, like with her cheers. She's a brilliant player and a good captain.
"It's really unexpected that we've come so far but these girls really did well the entire tournament. They trained really hard for it and played very well."
Rui Xin, 17, said: "We had a few tough opponents along the way and I think we played extra well this year. Through teamwork, we were able to get this far so I'm very proud of them."