It was a tough struggle indeed for Bay of Plenty as they went down 53-37 to Wellington at the TECT Arena on Sunday, in the fourth and final preliminary round of the Lion Foundation provincial netball championships.
It was the fourth straight loss this season for coach Mary-Jane Araroa's team, whio are in serious rebuilding mode after losing six of last year's top players.
Bay of Plenty started each of the four quarters well against Wellington but were run down by a stronger, more experienced team.
Araroa says having to promote so many players to starting roles has left a leadership vacuum in the team.
"It is all about taking leadership roles within the team. That is the luxury we have had in previous years to be honest. This year I have had players who in previous years have come on off the bench but are now starting, and are struggling with that transition.
"They have to be accountable now and fill the leadership roles."
The impressive part of the performance against Wellington was the defensive work from goal keep, captain and Waikato-Bay of Plenty Magic squad member Erena Mikaere.
"She contributed with some good turnovers and combined well with Lynnaire Williams, who also gave it her all," Araroa said.
"Erena is new at being a leader and her experience with the Magic is really great. She is able to share that with the team but with a new group of players we have, sometimes she needs to worry about her own game."
Next up for Bay of Plenty is the finals week of the provincial championships, to be held at the TECT Arena from October 3-5.
Araroa knows a big challenge lies ahead for her team to stay up in the top division.
"The writing is on the wall for us. We will be looking at promotion and relegation. We needed to beat Wellington to keep in the top four but also to give us some confidence leading into that week.
"We have to go back to basics and do some soul-searching about what do we really want out of that week now.
"We also have to remember that we represent a region and not a bunch of individuals."