Tonight is the night that the Magic need to make a statement.
Down on form and confidence in their recent outings, the Waikato-Bay of Plenty team face the Mainland Tactix in Mt Maunganui and are desperate to return to winning ways after back-to-back losses.
It's a game the Magic really need to tick off on their run to the playoffs, with tougher assignments against the NSW Swifts and Queensland Firebirds to come.
"It's always difficult to know what the other teams are going to do but last time we did the maths, we've got to win two out of the three, that'll put us in a good position," assistant coach Margaret Forsyth said.
The Tactix are bottom of the ladder, having won just once this season, but they are an improved team from previous years, and that win came against the Central Pulse, who toppled the Magic twice.
The Magic have never lost to the Tactix in their 13 meetings, and they pumped them 70-46 in Christchurch in round one. Forsyth said that match would be tucked away for some assurance but it was a new ball game now, and the stakes were higher.
"That was a number of weeks ago now, and both teams have changed since then, and the competition climate's changed since then," she said.
"So in a large respect they're quite different games, and you could almost say that we're different teams."
The Tactix have the nothing to lose attitude that can make teams dangerous, while news that coach Leigh Gibbs is stepping down at the end of the season may also inspire the players.
Forsyth noted the visitors' strength is in their attacking end, which is spearheaded by Malawi international Mwai Kumwenda, who has sunk the second most goals in the competition, with 398 at 91.5 per cent.
"Kumwenda is obviously a big target, she's athletic and pretty accurate close to the post. Anna Thompson's a longer shooter and if she's on target and she's slotting 90 per cent or thereabouts of her shots, then that's going to make it a very challenging proposition for us."
But Forsyth was highly confident in her team's defensive unit. Who wouldn't be, when you've got Casey Kopua and Leana de Bruin to pull you out of trouble?
However, Forsyth would like to see more ball won through the midcourt and even in the attacking end.
At training this week the Magic have gone back to basics somewhat, both with their defensive philosophy - to try and be tighter on and dictate ball - and attacking-wise, where they are looking to turn quicker, square up and have confidence to let the ball go.
The coaching team have been insistent on the players' need to concentrate and dig in for longer periods, with surrendering leads in games being a painful watch.
"Even in training when the concentration lapses and we have a number of errors we've asked for a much more immediate response rather than just rolling on to another error and another error," Forsyth said.
She noted the team had taken a step backwards in their trust in one another on court, and said that had to be rectified if they were to "get that mojo back".
"The strength of our team is our ability to play seven players playing 150 per cent for 60 minutes.
"When we've come out like that we delivered the results. It's difficult in this competition to have only some of your team performing to that level, it really has to be a full team performance."
Centre Courtney Tairi needs to take her play up a notch or two and have more conviction in the Magic's attack, with them getting a little lost through the middle.
While the last few weeks have been challenging, Forsyth said adversity was something that the team had to be prepared to overcome.
- Waikato Times
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