Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Spartans G5: Stumbling Spartans

Tempers raged and emotions ran free last night when the Spartans finally lost out on the title race. Nothing less than a win was needed, but the Spartans failed to deliver when it was needed most.
*Even now, when the unpleasant memories of the game have faded slightly, the defeat still stings, and to write this is torture: Where did the Spartans go wrong?*
Or, maybe more accurately, where did the Spartans go right?
Not from the start, most definitely. The first few minutes already delivered two goals, the first from a freehit (typical). Shocked, but not struck down, Frontliners hit back, and Mekananth then Khor Kuan Yang scored.
The game lost its flow after that, with fouls and whistles punctuating the game every few minutes. It reached critical point when, after a FireAnts player fell, Jason Chan was sent out for pushing. He reacted, understandably but unexcusably, and it took some time for him to calm down beside the timekeeper and secretary.
Just before the break FireAnts scored once more.

2-3 at the break.

Team Captain, Kuan Yang did all the talking during half-time, and he urged the Spartans to keep their focus and go for the win.
Second period, and a second chance to prove themselves all over again.

The FireAnts, though, were on song that day, and Sharron at her best could not keep out all their shots. After some very magnificent saves by her, Contact finally added to their tally.
The crowd, which comprised mostly of FireAnts supporters, were getting louder and more confident, and it did show as Frontliners were getting more and more pressured to find two goals. Finally the tension snapped, when Mekananth fell down upfield, and some of the crowd's comments were less than respectful. Kew Pei Li lost her cool near the crowd and retaliated back.
The Spartans were a mental wreck right then, and the FireAnts ran loose all over; only terrific defending by Sanjeevan and wonderful goalkeeping by Sharron kept them at bay. Captain Marvel Kuan Yang ran over every yard of space, sweating buckets to keep the scoreline respectable.
Sadly, one loss of concentration invited a poacher's finish from Bryan Looi of the FireAnts.
Still not defeated, however, and buoyed on by the five Frontliners supporters at the other end, the Spartans pulled one back, but it was too little, too late.

3-5, final score.

The players worked extra-time to keep a smile on their faces (or at least keep from breaking down) as they lined up to exchange handshakes and high-fives. The battle had been lost, and the Spartans were like shell-shocked soldiers who had just gone through hell.
Before the game, team manager and coach Jason Chan said this:
"As long as we play like champions we will always be champions."
And when we don't, victory is always only one step, one effort, one last push away.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Trojans G5: A Fighting Chance

"This is the only match where we can score some goals," stated Frontliners Trojans' coach Khor Kuan Yang.
Contact Bullets were the only Division 2 team against which the Trojans stood a fighting chance. And the Trojans knew that full well. They also knew that the Bullets were slightly better, having more experienced players and, well, more players.

All set, Trojan captain Roselyn Ewe (in place of still-absent experienced captain Serene Tan) faced off against the Bullet captain, both with their squads ready and waiting. Holding tight, the Trojans' defense did a sound job in fending off the incoming Bullets. Relatively new goalkeeper Bryan Koh did well in parrying away the Bullets' attempts at scoring a goal.

However, the forwards did not have as much luck and were found lacking in skills, although they did come close to scoring a few times. Both sides failed to deliver, and so ended a goalless first half. (The only casualty was the stick Wayne was using which broke near the blade while he was tussling for the ball. Floorball, after all, isn't a gentle game.)

Goals were bound to come in the second half. Only minutes past the start, former hockey player Loganathan raced up the court, ball in hand. His initial attempt to score was blocked away by the Bullet keeper. Loga immediately went in for the rebound. After a brief scuffle in front of the goal and assistance from Tania Loke, he swept the ball into the goal. 1-0 to the Trojans.

But (unfortunately, there must be a 'but'), the celebrations were short-lived as the Bullets equalised 1-1. They went on to score a controversial goal, which the Trojans claimed went through the side of the goal. The referees had the final say and the score became 1-2 to the Bullets. Only a few minutes remained, and the Trojans weren't giving up.

At the final nail-biting minute, the Trojans went all-out for a goal, defender Nareenthiran even going on the offensive. They knew this was their only chance to even up the score. The Bullets knew that too and beefed up their defense. With that, the Trojans' valiant effort was thwarted, with the Bullet keeper clenching the ball as the final whistle went.

And so the Trojans sealed their spot at 4th place. Needless to say, experience comes with pain. Although they did do better, as remarked by juniors' coach Kew Pei Li. They didn't go down without a fight, and that's what matters most.

Five down, one to go.

Spartans G4: 300 Spartans vs 10,000 Persians

Frontliners Spartans again produced another heart-stopping encounter with Innebandy! CO, their best performance ever, with free-flowing floorball up and down the court, Mekanath surging to the top of the individual table again with another two goals to his account.
This game was not about individual brilliance but about who would make more mistakes: Frontliners Spartans, Innebandy! CO or the referees.
A few changes were made in the Spartans' formation, with three players out (Joshua Raj, Joshua Lam, Goekula Kannan), meaning that there would only be seven players playing, though none that anyone would expect, with Steven Tay playing as centre and team captain Khor Kuan Yang playing as an attacking defender. A risk taken, that meant Frontliners would be more proficient in attack but have less cover in defence. It paid off, and the game started at a furious pace, with Frontliners scoring inside the first few minutes through a tap-in from Kai Yann after the keeper spilled the ball.
Innebandy quickly equalized after some exquisite exchanges between their forwards and centre.
Frontliners then raced to a two-goal lead, shocking everyone, especially Innebandy's team manager, Kao Lin Ken, with goals from Mekanath and Jason Chan.
Innebandy pulled one back after a dubious freehit was given by the referee, then somemore poor refereeing meant that Innebandy drew level, with the ball sneaking in through the side netting. They then went a goal up after some good play.

3-4 at the break.

"We are two goals away from making history." Quote by team manager, Jason Chan.

Frontliners Spartans again started well, and were rewarded with another goal by Mekanath. Sanjeevan then scored his second goal of his entire career, ten minutes into the second period, with a shot halfway into the attacking half.
Innebandy pressed forward even more, but great defending and goalkeeping meant they could not find an equalizer even though, at one spot the Spartans were reduced to four after Jason was sent out. Then five minutes later, the looked-for goal came after a defensive error by Sanjeevan, leaving their forward on a one-on-one with the keeper.
The pressure heaped onto the Spartans to at least snatch a point, with Innebandy zooming in on them from everywhere, but great and desperate defending made sure that the score remained at

5-5, spoils shared between Frontliners Spartans and Innebandy! CO.

The happier team would be Contact FireAnts, spectators in this great match, with the draw meaning that they are a point above the other two.
There will always be questions asked and what-ifs and could-have-beens, but this game is over, and the only thing to do now is to concentrate on the next game.

"Spartans! What is! Your profession?!"

Enough said.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Trojans G4: Losing but Winning

Losing's never a sweet thing. A big, fat goal deficiency is like rubbing salt on the wound. Nevertheless, it still demands a report.

With experienced captain Serene Tan still absent, this time Trojan goalkeeper Felicia Yeow stepped up to the plate. Nareenthiran was also missing. The Trojans welcomed a new face, Bryan Koh, football goalkeeper turned first-time floorball keeper. Though he still has a long, long way to go, with commitment at the top of the list.

A loss and two thrashings behind them, the Trojans stepped into the court on Sunday evening to face off against Dalat Eagles. Frankly, nothing was expected. The prospect of not getting another thrashing was bleak. Besides, of course, the ever energetically optimistic Team Manager Jason Chan, who firmly believed in the Trojans.

First half. The Trojans had 20 minutes to prove themselves and their opponents wrong and make history, but it didn't go exactly as planned. Far from it, really. The defense went limp when pitted against the Eagles, who had the clear advantage when it came to size, strength, stamina, speed, skills and sheer teamwork.
Frustration, tiredness and that stark difference between the two teams eventually got the better of the Trojans. But that wasn't to stop Jason and coach Kuan Yang from bursting their lungs:
"That's your man!"
"Mark that guy!"
"Follow him!"
"That's the way!"
And so, several gaping mistakes and valiant efforts later, 0-9 to Dalat. First half only, mind you.

Half-time. The return of Nareen. Kuan Yang voiced out and explained a list of mistakes to the fatigued and down Trojans. A much-needed spirit-lifter was provided by Jason, who stated that the score didn't matter no more and pushed the players for a goal. Just one goal.

Second half. The Trojans returned to the battlefield, weapons drawn but unsure of what to expect. As always, the Eagles kept the ball in their grip and constantly swooped towards the goal, often with success. For them, of course. Minutes into the game, a frustrated Felicia was replaced by a raw but fresh Bryan, whose football goalkeeping instincts kicked in, often diving down for the ball as opposed to grabbing it.
Still, luck was not on the Trojans' side and they failed to deliver that one miraculous goal. Final score: 0-17. Painful, but no pain, no gain.

Admittedly, it's been a losing streak for the Trojans so far, with only two matches left and a 42-goal deficit. Still, the experience is all that matters in this stage, and the Trojans have a long way to go with this league as a launching pad to greater heights.

"That's what learning is, after all; not whether we lose the game, but how we lose and how we've changed because of it and what we take away from it that we never had before, to apply to other games. Losing, in a curious way, is winning." - Richard Bach, American writer.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Spartans G3: Table-Toppers (At Least For Now)

Frontliners Spartans and Mekanath Selvaraj surged to the top of the team and individual tables respectively, as they recorded a 6-2 win over Minden Unihawks in a must-win game.

On Tuesday, when Innebandy! CO upset Contact FireAnts, each Spartan knew, that if they did win their match against the Unihawks that everyone would be equal again (except for the Unihawks), having each won twice and lost once, therefore this was a crucial match in the Spartans' 2008 league campaign, and the team manager and coach, Jason Chan, stated that 'even a 1-0 win would be enough'.

Earlier in the day, Frontliners held training in PBSM, as usual, and the new coach and assistant coach for the junior team were introduced: Kew Pei Li and Por Kai Yann, thus meaning they would not take part in training with the seniors anymore, but grow along with the juniors.

The Spartans knew that they were up for a tough match, as most of the Unihawks were bigger and stronger than them. And right from the start, the Unihawks physical advantage could be seen, especially at left forward where their #17 was up against one of the smallest players in the team, Pei Li.

However, with Jason returning to action after being unavailable against Contact, the scales were more balanced, and the Spartans went ahead after Kai Yann (pic below, in white) finally put away his shot after his earlier shot rebounded back off the keeper.Frontliners then went two-up thanks to four-goal hero that night, Mekanath. Their lead was cut back when Christopher scored, a light chip that sent the keeper the wrong way.

2-1 to the Spartans at the break.

"It's a team. We win together and lose together." Remark by the coach, after Kuan Yang apologized for his mistake that led to the goal.

It was a good start to the second period, when Mekanath restored the Spartans' two-goal cushion. The lead was again cut back after some miscommunication between the keeper and the defender, and Kevin popped up to tap the ball in.

Although the Unihawks managed to get some good crosses in, not many shots were taken, and the Spartans punished the Unihawks by adding three more goals to their tally (Mekanath (x2) and Jason). Minden Unihawks fought hard and tough, giving everything they had, but there was simply no way back.

Final score, 6-2 to Frontliners Spartans.

Not their best so far, but what mattered was the win.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Trojans G3: Exposure

Out of the frying pan, into the fire.

The 0-9 loss to Dalat Eagles was still at the back of the players' minds. And now came a team in the same league as the Eagles themselves. Ready or not, Frontliners Trojans faced an all-male (again), experienced Ztec 8cers.

With experienced captain Serene Tan away, Nareen stepped in to fill the void. Roselyn Ewe took charge of the centre. Julian Tan's spot was filled by a similar-in-size Wayne, who finally made it for his first match. And a memorable one indeed.

The first half saw the Trojans conceding goal after goal, no thanks to slack defending by the team as a whole, which left many exposed spots. But of course, the fact that Ztec boasted comparatively more skillful and seasoned players cannot be put aside. The absence of experienced captain Serene Tan was sorely felt by the not-so-serene Trojans.
A flurry of shots was delivered by Ztec, 8 of which found their way into the goal. And so ended the first half.

Enter the second half. The Trojans regained their composure and gave it their all. A goal scored would have been nothing short of a miracle, though. The opponents they faced did not give many chances. Nevertheless the Trojans did manage to concede less goals this time round. Still, Ztec was obviously the better team, in size (of team and of individuals) and strength.
Ztec pushed through with 4 goals. And so Frontliners Trojans 0, Ztec 8cers 12.

Special mention goes to Felicia Yeow, up-and-coming star goalkeeper. Trading her stick for a goalkeeper's helmet less than a year ago, this lady is the unsung heroine of Frontliners Trojans. Although letting in 12 goals, she undoubtedly saved many, many more. And not forgetting, Frontliners Trojans wishes to thank their supporters among the crowd for their enthusiastic cheers throughout the match.
It was all in the name of exposure, and the Trojans are just gonna become stronger, through it all.

"Losing doesn't eat at me the way it used to. I just get ready for the next play, the next game, the next season." - Troy Aikman.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Trojans G2: Play On

Frontliners Trojans vs Dalat Eagles

The Sexist: It's more than plain at first sight. Dalat boasts an all-male squad who are - naturally - stronger and faster. Trojans, don't expect much.
The Racist: Foreigners. Obviously a marked difference in size. And strength probably. Don't you realise they almost always beat the locals, especially in sports?
Team Manager Jason Chan, in his heartwarming, heartfelt, straight-from-the-heart letter stated this goal (which he reasoned to be realistic enough): Lose by no more than a two-goal margin.
And so expectations were not very high.

Barely five minutes into the game, Eagle captain Yeoh Jun Wooi crashed to the ground, badly enough to cause a seizure. The match also had a 'seizure' with talks of a postponement. Finally the verdict was out: Play on!

The Eagles maintained steady possession of the ball throughout the game, delivering shot after shot at marvellous Trojan goalkeeper Felicia Yeow. Nevertheless the Trojans did put up a fight, although it was an uphill battle. Loopholes in the Trojans' defense were all the Eagles needed to swoop in and put the ball into the net. Which they did.

Defense was not the only problem. The Eagles proved that speed was a crucial asset as they raced around the court, stealing the ball which only got a few seconds to itself before recommencing its high-speed travels. Rather unfortunately, most of the Trojans weren't as agile.

Admittedly the soaring Eagles aced the Trojans overall. The latter just couldn't hold the ball long (or well) enough to deliver. And finally, Frontliners Trojans 0, Dalat Eagles 9. Disappointing, really. (Jason's goal would've been met if it was losing by a margin of two digits, not two goals.)

To Dalat: well played; and to all the Trojans out there: Let's not make this into a routine, shall we? Play on!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Spartans G2: Not Over

Frontliners Spartans put up a great second-half display to win some pride back after a poor first-half in a game that they lost by a one-goal deficit to Contact FireAnts.
Missing two of their players, Jason Chan and Por Kai Yann, it showed when the FireAnts stormed to a three goal lead. Passing (the little there was) was disjointed, control was average, and the shots were just not coming in. The first goal came when the Spartans conceded a freehit five meters away from the goal. Their lack of experience showed, when, after a pretty dummy by Edward Lim, Henry Cheang of Contact scored, low past the keeper.
The second goal was a letdown, after some slack defending, and goalie Sharron could do nothing about the goal resulting from a pass to the centre. The third came just after the second, with Edward hitting a crack shot midway into his attacking half, scoring to the bottom-right corner.
To compound it all, the Spartans again were reduced to four men after Steven Tay was sent off for not being a full three meters away from a freehit.
During half time, team captain Khor Kuan Yang calmed the players down and urged them to remember what their team manager had written to them: to stay mentally strong.

Since Jason was not there, it was Joshua Lam who took over his role.
"Spartans! What is your profession?!"

Hyped up and raring for action, the players returned to court and started making their presence count. The defence impressed (bar some nervy moments, but Sharron covered magnificently), and it paid off when Kuan Yang scored a great goal, a shot from nearly 15 meters out.
The Spartans pushed on, and were again rewarded, with Kuan Yang scoring again.
The hall was bursting with pressure, and the noise level rose as the crowd finally started to get vocal. However, in the end, it was 3-2 to the FireAnts.

Congratulations, FireAnts.

"We didn't lose the game. We just ran out of time." (Vince Lombardi)