Story by Nicole Lum/Red Sports. Photos by Clara Yuan/Red Sports
Yio Chu Kang Sports Complex, Wednesday, May 13, 2015 — A poor start by Victoria Junior College (VJC) in the National A Division Volleyball Championship final did not deter the boys from eventually defeating rivals Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) 3–1.
HCI dominated in the first set with their strong offence and defence. Powerful spikes courtesy of Jovian Tan (#17) sent their opponents scrambling for the ball, while Tin Wei Heng (#6) bolstered HCI’s blocks at the net. The team’s strategic isolation play also managed to break down VJC’s defence.
Although VJC warmed up and began to narrow the deficit later in the set, they were too late as HCI slipped away to win it 25–22.
Stepping up in the next set, VJC displayed tactical shots that cracked HCI’s solid play. Several deep-corner hits easily earned them the lead while HCI struggled to keep up.
Despite good attempts by Jovian Tan (#17), many of HCI’s shots could not get past VJC’s Maguire Ong (#1) and Tan Kiat Hwe (#13). At one juncture, VJC added five points on the board before HCI answered. As a result, the second set went to VJC with a score of 25–13.
HCI stumbled a little in the third set as they rushed to gain their second match point. Their faults and service errors gave VJC an edge over them and hence, VJC won the third set (25–20).
The final set saw the score tied nine times as both teams were neck-and-neck down to the last eight points. For VJC, libero Tian Seet Khuen (#8) played a pivotal role with his impressive digs. On the other hand, teamwork on the HCI side allowed the team to execute some critical spikes.
Both teams put up an equal effort but a few mistakes on HCI’s part allowed VJC to pull away at 17–17. Eventually, a fouled spike by HCI handed VJC the 3–1 victory with their 25–21 final set win.
VJC’s teacher-in-charge, Teo Zhiye said, “It was point for point and we played our best. Our opponent was a very good team, so it wasn’t easy.”
“Our setter and main spikers today were excellent. Same goes for the defence as our libero was flying all over,” he added. “The team generally gelled together to get the ball up and over.”
On how the team felt after their loss in the first set, Teo explained, “They were worried at first as they were drowned by the voices. Hence, they didn’t perform to their potential. But in the second set, they proved their worth and played their own game.”
The result in the first set was the only time VJC had lost a set in the championship. “We came in confident because we didn’t drop any sets. But because we were jittery and slow to warm up, we had our first loss,” said Teo.
However, VJC managed sweep the remaining three sets by staying calm, which Teo mentioned was the key factor to their victory. “Everyone’s tired, but we depended on our mentality to get ourselves through.”
VJC last brought home the title in 1991 and to finally regain the title after 24 years was sweet victory for the boys.
“Our hard work finally paid off. If we didn’t get out in the second set, we could’ve lost,” said Teo.
VJC’s team captain, Leung Lok Heng (#15) echoed his teacher’s thoughts.
“I think the game went very well, it was a very good battle between two very good teams. Both teams gave their all, and I felt that maybe we had a little bit more resilience to win the entire match,” said Leung.
On the loss in the first set, Leung said, “We were a little bit shaken after the first set because we didn’t expect to lose by that great a margin. After the first set, we came together as a team and said that we were not going to let the next six months of effort go to waste just like that. With that, we managed to push through the next three sets.”
Prior to the final, the team had prepared well, watching recordings to see how they could improve for the match against HCI.
“We came into the match knowing that we had to aim for the corners of the court because we know that their defence was really good. We had to go for open areas and after watching a lot of filming we found out that their corners of the court was relatively open so we tried to target those areas,” said Leung.
Though VJC entered the final unbeaten, all was not exactly smooth-sailing before the competition.
“It was a shaky season as we had to deal with a lot of injuries and people falling sick. Sometimes, we had to switch players and positions around so we weren’t playing in our ideal formation a lot of the time. But I felt that that really helped us to learn how to improvise and adapt to different situations, especially in this match,” Leung concluded.
As for HCI, team captain Chan Hong Kit (#12) said, “We started off pretty well in the first set and the team’s strategy paid off. But in the next few sets we couldn’t keep our composure. We were also unable to keep up with their service game, and that didn’t allow us to start our attack which resulted in our loss.”
VJC were not the only team who had their own strategy. “Their first rotation had two of their best players up front. We decided to pit our not-so-strong players against them so that our stronger ones can build on their weaker players,” explained Chan.
On the reason for their loss, Chan said, “It was a chaotic weekend. Many of our players were sick or injured but I don’t think that should be an excuse as VJC played really well today.”
“VJC has a very good team and they deserve to win this year, but we’ll definitely come back stronger next year,” Chan concluded.
Scoring by Set
HCI vs VJC
1st set: 25–22
2nd set: 13–25
3rd set: 20–25
4th set: 21–25
Lee Kang Yue Marc (#1), Ethan Goh Kei En (#2), Tay Yee En, Ryan (#3), Ong Yi Kai (#4), Tin Wei Heng (#6), Low Ern Hueh (#7), Lim En Rui Zamir (#8), Lin An (#9), Tan Jiong Han (#10), Chan Hong Kit (#12), Chang Chun-Chuan (#13), Lee Han Bin (#14), Tan Ming Zhuang, Jovian (#17), Lee Xuan Hong (#18)
Maguire Ong (#1), Joel Lee Guo Zhang (#3), Marcus Aw Yu Kian (#4), Clement Tan Kai Ern (#5), Cheo Feng Yi (#6), Teddy Teo Zi Hao (#7), Tian Seet Khuen (#8), Tan Jun Jie Nigel (#9), Tan Li Hao (#11), Tan Kiat Hwe (#13), Leung Lok Heng (#15), Sim Song He (#17)
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