The Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic are feeling weary and the bye has come at just the right time for them, according to coach Julie Fitzgerald.
Perhaps it was no coincidence then that the Magic weren't able to fire a knockout blow in extra time against the Central Pulse at Claudelands Arena on Monday night, the 56-53 result being their first loss of the season.
While the Magic will be left with that losing taste for a week longer than normal, the break will give them a prime chance to take stock of where they're at, and Fitzgerald has the team approaching their second block of the season as if it's the start of a new one.
"It's fortuitous to have the bye in the middle of the season," she said. "There's things that we've built on and progressed to to this point in time, and I think it will be nice to have a weekend off and be able to re-focus.
"We're a pretty tired group, I think. There's been a lot of emotion that's gone into the last few games and our build-up to the season and then the way we've gone.
"I just think it's all the emotion of getting up for these games. We tend to be playing a team every week that's really desperate for a win. And not being too sure what our expectations were, and those expectations changing every week, I think it'll be really good to have a bit of a break."
While the team won't have game commitments, Fitzgerald will run a pretty standard training week, and the players will no doubt come back fired up to take on the Northern Mystics in Hamilton on Easter Sunday (April 20).
Captain Casey Kopua will particularly appreciate the rest, having taken a nasty blow to the back of her right arm on Monday night, just before halftime.
"She said it was like getting a corky," Fitzgerald said. "For a moment there I thought she'd broken her ribs. She was in a great deal of pain at halftime, but that subsided a little bit so that she could carry on, but she just copped a really hard knock.
"I think it'll be very sore, I think she'll be very grateful she's got a week off."
While it took an experienced Pulse lineup extra time to hand the Magic their first defeat, Fitzgerald said there were things they had to do better.
"I don't know if I'll delve into it deeper [than normal] because I think I delve into everything enough as it is, but you certainly do learn from your losses and I think we'll very much learn from this one.
"We had our opportunities to win it before it went into extra time.
"Each game at home we've had a slow start. We can't afford to keep giving teams five and six-goal leads before we get into the game. And we talked about it and we thought we were real prepared, they were happy with their warmup, but it's certainly something we're going to have to address again.
"I don't think we handled their zone as well we could have. We talked about what we wanted to do there and at times we did it really well but there were other times where we sort of fell back into old habits.
"I think we struggled a little bit in controlling the pace of the game, there were times when we became quite laborious with it when I think we needed to speed up the ball movement a little bit more, and better judgment of when to speed it up and when to be conservative."
The Magic are still two points clear at the top of the trans-Tasman league table, but will be joined on 10 points by the winner of the NSW Swifts-Melbourne Vixens game in Sydney on Sunday, with the Swifts the only other team to have lost just one game.
- Fairfax Media
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