COOLAMON got a close-up account of the standard they need to reach to press for a Riverina League title after Mangoplah-Cookardinia United-Eastlakes bounced back with a 38-30 win on Sunday.
The Goannas suffered their first loss of the year to Griffith the week before, but hit back hard at Kindra Park as the Hoppers' unbeaten start came to and end.
"As I said to the girls after the game, that's the standard we need to be at," Coolamon coach Claudia Barton said.
"They (MCUE) are a very well drilled team and they don't have any weaknesses throughout the court. Credit to them, they will definitely be a top contender and it's the benchmark we have to strive for.
"With us being at the top of the ladder, you always want to beat the team on top. After a loss we completely understood they'd come out with a bit of vengeance, just to prove they are are the top team that won the premiership.
"They played really simple but effective netball, which is what I'm trying to drill into my girls. We're disappointed with the loss as any coach is, but is gives us more to work on."
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The Hoppers were keen to get the win to cap the 200th game of club stalwart Alissa Neyland, but couldn't go with the Goannas down the stretch.
Barton expects the league to be tighter than ever this year.
"I don't think there will be any easy games throughout the whole season, which will keep everyone on their toes," she said.
"Everyone will be well drilled and come finals time, it will be anyone's game."
Griffith remained unbeaten with a hard-fought 47-44 triumph over the winless Wagga Tigers, while Ganmain-Grong Grong-Matong squared their season ledger with a 52-50 win against Leeton-Whitton.
Collingullie-Glenfield Park retained third spot on the ladder with a 74-28 win over Narrandera.
The Hoppers travel to Wagga to play the Tigers this week, who will be desperate to notch their first win after three tight losses to start the season.
"We're under no illusions they're going to come out and be really desperate," Barton said.
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