SSTMI-Thunderbolt were unbeaten en route to lifting the Division One crown earlier this month.
KUALA LUMPUR: The quarter-finals of the MHC-Milo-NSC Malaysian Junior Hockey League (MJHL) begin on Friday and it looks like defending champions SSTMI-Thunderbolt are the only ones certain to make the last four.
They are far too strong to falter at this stage, especially since they will be facing Division Two outfits MSP Pahang Juniors.
Thunderbolt were unbeaten en route to lifting the Division One crown earlier this month and are unlikely to let up in their bid for a third straight double – having achieved the feat in 2012 and 2013.
Thunderbolt manager Adam Izamry Idrus, however, is not about to take any team for granted.
“MSP Pahang may be a Division Two team but we are not going to look down on them. You can’t afford to let your performance level dip in a knockout competition like this ... otherwise you will be knocked out. So, we have warned our players against complacency,” said Adam.
“They know what is at stake and must continue with their winning momentum in the quarter-finals.”
The team have, after their two-week break, spent time improving on their team play and fitness.
“We have two fears going into the match. One is getting booked and the other is picking up unnecessary injuries,” said Adam.
“There are five matches in the knockout stage before you can win the title. So, we will have to think ahead as well.
“As it is, we have one player (midfielder Mohd Najib Abu Hassan) who is just one card away from being suspended if he is booked in the match against MSP Pahang.”
While Thunderbolt are expected to cruise into the last four, the other three quarter-final matches are basically touch-and-go affairs.
Olak-PKT will fancy their chances against Malacca High School while the ties between UniKL and Politeknik Johor as well as MBPJ and BJSS are set to be evenly contested.
Former double champions Olak have already achieved their target in the MJHL. As such, they are under no pressure in their pursuit for the title.
Olak team manager Joseph De Silva is confident that his boys can make it to the semi-finals.
“There are enough incentives for the players to perform well and we also have a draw that is quite favourable to us. Malacca are not that strong ... we have more than an even chance of winning,” he said.
The match between UniKL and Division Two outfit Politeknik Johor, though, could be a fiery one.
Both teams look capable of challenging Thunderbolt for the overall title and chances are one of them will be among the finalists.
The MBPJ-BJSS tie will be a clash of former champions and should be an intriguing one indeed.