Fed Cup defence goes on the line

THE Monaro Panthers women's side may be in the midst of defending its Federation Cup pre-season title, but the side's focus remains primarily on its upcoming Women's Premier League campaign.

That's according to Panthers captain Stephanie Coates, who says the team is aiming to peak at the right time in order to bring home the WPL silverware in the club's second season of competition.

The 2013 Fed Cup champions suffered a surprise 3-2 loss to Weston-Molonglo in the opening round of this year's pre-season tournament a fortnight ago but hit straight back with a 4-0 win over Canberra Olympic last weekend.

This Saturday will see the Panthers take on Tuggeranong United in a contest Coates believes is a must-win against a star-studded lineup featuring talents Alex Laurence and Ann Mayo well as Women's National League player Sammie Wood.

But Coates added that there had been no pressure from coaching staff and fellow players to retain the Fed Cup, with the Panthers using the pre-season competition to build new combinations amongst a squad boasting a number of new faces.

"It is important for us that we're peaking during the Premier League season and that we don't burn ourselves out too early in the year," Coates said.

Coates is confident the club can secure a maiden WPL title given the club has maintained its core playing group heading into its second campaign.

"It's just a matter of having more time on the field so we can click in every important moment," Coates added.

Last year's highest goal scorer Ashleigh Palombi has again been on fire for Monaro in the Federation Cup and is shaping as a key strike weapon this season.

But according to Coates, it's at the other end of the field the Panthers have been focused this pre-season following the departure of key defenders Becky Watts, Olivia Moore and goalkeeper Jocelyn Mara during the off-season.

"We lost some defenders at the end of last year, so that's an area that will be focused on for improvement," Coates said.

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