Bendigo Bank Spirit will be out to validate their red-hot form of last weekend when they host University of Canberra Capitals on Saturday night.
The Spirit (4-2) have leapt to the top of the WNBL ladder after consecutive road victories against second-placed Dandenong and reigning champions Townsville.
Coach Simon Pritchard has implored his players to not undo last week’s great work against a new-look Capitals, led by Olympian Marianna Tolo and American Mikaela Ruef.
“Rather than consolidate, we are using the word validate,” he said.
“We need to validate the work we did last week by getting a win this week.
“That in turn validates the effort we put in on the road.”
The Capitals head to Bendigo with a 3-2 record and in fourth place on the ladder.
A vastly different line-up has already secured two more wins than last year’s team, so the Capitals are clearly making strides under highly-respected new coach Paul Goriss.
Import Ruef grabbed a massive 22 rebounds to add to her 12 points last week and looms as an imposing threat to the Spirit’s hopes of a third win at home.
Pritchard said halving the American’s rebound count would hold the Spirit in good stead against the Capitals.
“Then there’s Marianna Tolo, who is six-foot-six and skilled – Nayo (Raincock-Ekunwe) gives up three or four inches on her and, although Nayo can jump, it’s about position.
“When Tolo pivots she is so long, so we need to do a good job containing her.”
Lauren Mansfield (13 points, seven assists last week) is the Capitals’ other star and will go head-to-head with the in-form Spirit tandem of Kerryn Harrington and Blake Dietrick.
The Spirit boast arguably the deepest roster in the league and have four players averaging more than 10 points a game, led by Canadian Olympian Raincock-Ekunwe, and four others over the six point mark.
Rarely have the Spirit been out-rebounded this season, with Raincock-Ekunwe (8.3 per game), Kelsey Griffin (7.3), Gabe Richards (4.5) and Nadeen Payne (4.5) leading the way.
Pritchard was confident the Spirit had the all-round game to be more than a handful for Canberra.
“But it’s a very even competition and if you don’t bring your A (grade) game, or if we have any sense of complacency, which we have before, they will run over the top of us,” he said.
“We need to make sure we are on point and focused.”
Guard Harrington said the Spirt were expecting a tough fight from the Capitals.
“Ruef has presented challenges to us in the past playing for other teams,” she said.
“They have got a very good team and we need to do a lot work against them.”
Saturday night’s game tips off at 7.30pm.