SINGAPORE - Defeat can sometimes be a timely wake-up call, as the Anglo-Chinese Junior College (ACJC) A Division boys' water polo team found out yesterday.
They were facing rivals Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) in the Schools National championships final, a side whom they had lost to recently - an 8-11 defeat in last week's round-robin stage.
And despite HCI again putting up a strong fight, ACJC held their nerves to triumph 8-7 at the Co-Curricular Activities Branch swimming complex to retain their A Division title.
Said captain Brendan Teo, 17: "I think we were a bit complacent in the first game but, after losing, we realised we weren't as good as we thought we were. It was a big wake-up call and the loss made us come together as a team."
The first quarter saw the score tied at 2-2, but ACJC pulled away after that, taking a 7-5 lead by the third quarter, helped in part by two penalties from Syed Isa and Ang Wan Loong.
They added another to make it 8-5 and held on despite HCI's spirited attempt to catch up in the final quarter with two goals through Raynold Toh.
Brendan recalled: "It was havoc inside my mind (when HCI began catching up), but I trusted my team-mates... we really came together at the end. Our team spirit carried us through all the way."
Despite the loss, HCI put up a performance worthy of a team which played in the last eight Schools National water polo finals.
Said captain Darren Wong, 17: "Although we started off slow and were nervous, we played better as the game went on. We worked on new tactics to try and counter ACJC's strengths, but it just didn't work out for us today."
In the A Division girls' final, traditional powerhouse Raffles Institution (RI) thrashed Temasek Junior College (TJC) 10-1 to clinch their eighth consecutive title.
Taking a commanding 7-0 by half-time, RI had the luxury of rotating their players as early as the third quarter.
TJC captain Koh Xiao Li, 18, acknowledged that RI were the stronger team and said: "We wanted to come here and do our best, but we didn't play as well as we could have."
RI captain and goalkeeper Joanna Chue, 18, was proud of her team's performance.
She said: "We had one of our best games today. Our team morale was high, and having supporters cheering for us really added to the atmosphere.
"We didn't buckle under the pressure and had a good game."
Additional reporting by Choo Yun Ting and Toh Ting Wei
This article was published on April 4 in The Straits Times.
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