The Yishun Sports Hall turned into a hothouse of roaring cheers, screaming boys and girls and intense action yesterday as arch-rivals Raffles Institution (RI) and Victoria Junior College (VJC) clashed in the final of the National Schools Boys' A Division Floorball Championship.
Both teams were urged on by a rabid group of fans who packed the indoor arena while a thunderstorm raged outside, setting the stage for a dramatic showdown.
In a tense and aggressive final where a player lost his glasses after being hit by the ball and others were felled after tough challenges, defending champions RI emerged victorious, coming away with a 4-2 win, with Tng Zong Wei chalking up two goals.
RI took control of the game in the first period with three quick goals to leave the Victorians shell-shocked.
But, speaking after the match, RI coach Jill Quek said: "We needed to get our heads back into the game after VJC scored a goal in the second period and defended stoutly to stop us from scoring."
Tng ensured RI would defend their crown with a goal halfway through the final period, with VJC grabbing a consolation near the end.
RI team captain, Amirul Ariq Bakthiar, 18, whom Quek described as the pillar of the team, admitted that they were nervous before the game.
"We faced VJC in the group stage and drew 1-1 with them," he said.
Zong Wei, 17, was the hero with his two goals, but he modestly credited the victory to a team effort.
"If my teammates hadn't pressed VJC hard enough, I wouldn't have gotten the ball," he said.
There was a silver lining for VJC, after the school finished fourth last year.
Josiah Lim, 18, who scored the team's first goal, said afterwards that the team did not feel any sort of pressure when going into the final.
"The pressure was always on RI," he said.
"We came into the game as underdogs and wanted to improve on last year's position."
In 1999, RI coach Quek became the first floorball player from Asia to play for a leading club in Sweden, where the sport originated.
She has been captain of the Singapore women's floorball team and is hoping to represent the country at this year's South-east Asia (SEA) Games, which will be held on home soil from June 5 to 16.
The 37-year-old has been an instrumental figure in RI's domination, but she took a stricter view of the team's standing in floorball in the division.
"Every year is a new year, so we can never be complacent," she said.
Earlier in the day, Meridian Junior College trounced River Valley High School 6-1 in the Girls' A Division final, erasing the memory of their second-placed finish in 2014.
"We lost in a heartbreaking fashion last year," said Meridian coach Filip Dahlgren.
"That experience drove us this year. We set out to be undefeated throughout this year's tournament, and now, we've achieved it."
This article was first published on May 15, 2015.
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