With a third consecutive title at stake, Rachael Han Fujisawa was a bundle of nerves as she walked out of the tunnel at Serangoon Stadium yesterday.
But, once the referee started the match, she felt right at home on the pitch.
The 16-year-old controlled the game from midfield and bagged a hat-trick as Victoria Junior College (VJC) humbled Meridian Junior College (MJC) 4-0 to retain their National Schools Girls' A Division football crown.
Rachael was also awarded the Golden Boot for a haul of 19 goals during the tournament.
She had put eight past Serangoon Junior College in the group stage, but scoring in the final was a whole different feeling for her.
"It's beyond amazing to score three goals in the final," she told The New Paper yesterday. "We set out to grab the early goals so that we could have a comfortable cushion.
"I honestly didn't expect to score so many today - it just happened in the spur of the moment."
VJC quickly exploited an unsettled MJC defence through forward Lynn Teoh, who opened the scoring after just four minutes.
They continued to pile the pressure and got a second goal through an eighth-minute penalty, which Rachael calmly slotted past the goalkeeper.
HORROR FIRST HALF
The playmaker then added a third via a sublime free-kick in the 11th minute to round off a disastrous first half for MJC.
Any hope of a comeback by the Meridians was extinguished when Rachael added VJC's fourth from outside the box, five minutes into the second half.
VJC captain Yuri Kubo, 17, was full of praise for the midfielder.
"Rachael's a brilliant scorer and a fantastic catalyst to help the play move on," she said. "I don't think we'd have scored as many goals without her."
Yuri - who like Rachael, is half-Singaporean and half-Japanese - is confident that her teammate will be a good captain next year.
"She is very commanding on the pitch and gives the team clear instructions, so that encourages good communication among our team," she said.
VJC coach Lawrence Lee was pleased to see Rachael, his former U-13 player, running all over to help in attack and defence.
"I told Rachael that she needs to be the backbone of the team, and today she has done that really well.
"She has grown to become a fantastic player and, if she continues to play after JC, I don't see why she won't be selected for the national team."
MJC captain Raelene Leong was disappointed that the early goals cost her team a chance at the title.
She said: "I think the game would have been different if we didn't concede early on but, credit to VJC, they exposed our weaknesses and took advantage of that."
This article was first published on May 23, 2015.
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