For eight long years, it was a case of so close yet so far, for Sembawang Secondary School's girls' B Division volleyball team.
They regularly finished in the top four in the North Zone fight, but could not take the next step and emulate the 2007 team, who won the zone title as well as the Nationals.
Sembawang took a big step forward when they won the North Zone B Division girls' final at the Yio Chu Kang Sports Hall.
Facing a highly-fancied Presbyterian High who were backed by a giant throng of their own students, Sembawang, with a much smaller group behind them, delivered a nerveless performance, dispatching their opponents in straight sets (25-18, 25-22).
Praising his team post-match, Sembawang's volleyball teacher-in-charge, Shamen Loke, said: "I think the girls played extremely well today, what more with the crowd pretty much on their backs the whole time.
"It feels even better for us when you consider how our zonal season was a huge roller-coaster ride. Our results were mixed and we struggled, but now we're here.
"It's beyond our expectations, really. No matter what happens at the Nationals, what matters most is what the girls picked up along the way, like good character and values."
For Presbyterian High, it was a tale of regret and tears were shed after the loss.
Not only did the girls fall at the final hurdle, but so too did the boys, after they lost 2-1 (25-23, 20-25, 25-16) to Catholic High.
Perhaps with the memory of the girls' loss playing on their mind, the Presbyterian High boys gave it their all.
After narrowly going down in the first set, they stormed back with a rousing 25-20 second set victory which looked like a turning point.
But fatigue led to careless mistakes and Presbyterian were hammered 25-16 in the deciding set.
The lack of fitness was not lost on coach Goh Yong Kwang.
"There is so much room for improvement in this team and one thing that really needs work is fitness.
"We used up all our energy in the second set, and Catholic High were eventually too much for us from that point on."
Catholic High's captain, 16-year-old Goh Gen Jun, could not hide his delight.
Grinning from ear to ear, he said: "We are really very proud of ourselves. This is our first year in the North Zone, after spending all of our time in the South Zone.
"It's been a very good season for us so far and we gave it our all in every match we played. Our hard work has paid off, and I hope that we can finish in the top four in the Nationals, at least."
The top four teams from the four zones will progress to the Nationals, and the 16 schools will battle it out to be crowned champions. The start of the Nationals will be decided at a later date.
This article was first published on Feb 25, 2015.
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