IT MAY have been a day of double joy for Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) at the Schools National A Division Volleyball Championships yesterday, but the school could not have won the boys' and girls' finals in more contrasting fashion.
While the boys registered a straight-set 3-0 victory over traditional powerhouses Nanyang Junior College at the Woodlands Sports Hall, the girls had to scrap for their 3-2 win over Anglo-Chinese JC.
Still, what stood out in both wins was the sheer tenacity of the HCI players.
The boys' final, a repeat of last year's encounter, saw defending champions HCI pushed all the way by a Nanyang team determined to avenge their heart-breaking 1-3 loss last year.
But HCI held their nerve and won 28-26, 27-25, 25-20, sparking scenes of wild celebrations among their supporters.
HCI captain Yu Chen Xing savoured the taste of triumph.
'Last year's win was great, but this year's is so much better,' he said. 'Lady luck was smiling on us at the crucial moments in our game.'
For the Nanyang team, defeat at the hands of the same opponents for the second year running was a bitter pill to swallow.
Said captain Clarence Lee: 'The team fought really hard, but kudos to HCI, they had a really strong mentality.'
In the girls' final, HCI had to dig deep after trailing 1-2 (25-20, 20-25, 22-25).
But driven by their cheering schoolmates, skipper Kelly Chin and her teammates bounced back to take the next set 25-9 to level the score.
They then rode on the momentum to grab the 15-point final set 15-11 to reclaim the trophy they last won in 2008.
It was also their fourth title in five years.
Said Kelly: 'It all boils down to teamwork. We were too nervous when we lost two straight sets, but we persevered, played as a team and our supporters were fantastic.'
This article was first published in The Straits Times.