An indication of mental strength is the ability to bounce back from setbacks and Shaalini Subramaniam clearly demonstrated that quality yesterday.
When Crescent Girls' School lost to Teck Whye Secondary School in last year's Schools National C Division hockey final on penalties (1-2), the centre midfielder missed her shot "miserably".
But yesterday, when it came down to the dreaded penalty flicks again, this time against CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School, Shaalini confronted her nightmare head-on to score the decider, sealing victory at Sengkang Hockey Stadium and erasing the painful memories of last year's heartbreak.
Crescent edged out St Nicholas 1-0 in the shoot-out to win their first title since 1994. There was nothing to separate the two sides in regulation time, which ended 0-0. No goals were scored in extra time either.
"As I was walking up to take my shot, all that ran through my mind was to just shoot it in. I knew there was pressure but I told myself I'm going to do it not just for myself, but also the team," the 14-year-old said.
"I just took notice of her (the opposing goalkeeper's) weakness on her right side throughout the match and during the penalties. I did what I could and when the ball crossed the line, I went crazy inside."
Captain Syakirah Yazid praised Shaalini's efforts, saying: "When she scored, everyone was really happy. We're so proud of the title because it's our first since 1994."
Nordin Manaff, who has coached Crescent since 1995, said: "This is my first C Division title and I'm so proud of the girls.
"We learnt from last year's defeat in the flicks and we expected it to go all the way (yesterday). That's why we really trained for it this time and we ended up doing well."
Raffles Institution (RI) took the C Division boys' title when they beat St Hilda's Secondary to retain their crown. Muhammad Khairul's second-half strike gave the Rafflesians a 1-0 win.
Northland Secondary School finished third in the boys' division, ahead of St Andrew's Secondary while defending champions Teck Whye took the girls' bronze. CHIJ St Theresa's Convent were fourth.