The West Coast Fever remain winless in the ANZ Championship after a disappointing 65-56 loss to the Melbourne Vixens at Challenge Stadium this morning.
The Fever have now slumped to a 0-2 start to a season in which they hope will lead to their maiden finals appearance in the seven years of the competition.
West Coast had been behind by more than 20 goals at stages during the second half but the Vixens benched some star players in the last quarter to allow the home side to reduce the margin.
Former captain Catherine Cox made her first trip to Perth since being cut from the team at the end of last season but she only came on for the last quarter when the game was already over, shooting five goals from eight attempts.
Vixens import Geva Mentor was brilliant on Caitlin Bassett in the first half with the star goal shooter benched after just 16 goals.
New captain Nat Medhurst finished the game with 28 goals, but she spent a half at goal shooter.
Karyn Bailey (35 goals) and goal attack Tegan Caldwell (25 goals) were dominant in attack for Melbourne and their midcourt barely wasted ball in the first half as their intimidating defensive unit of Mento and Bianca Chatfield got the better of Bassett and Medhurst.
It was a very intense opening to the match but the visitors were more sure with the ball, skipping out to an early three-goal lead.
Fever fought back to even things up at 13-13 but Geva Mentor won the ball back in defence again for her side to give them another three-point break.
Nat Medhurst launched a long bomb with seconds remaining to narrow the deficit to two at the first break.
Plummer made some defensive changes at break, moving club champion Eboni Beckford-Chambers to goal defence and bringing youngster Courtney Bruce off the bench into goal keeper.
A miss from Caitlin Bassett in the opening minutes of the second started the rot as the Vixens pushed their lead out to five.
An Ashleigh Brazill long bomb into Bassett which didn’t come off then helped Melbourne stretch the advantage out to seven.
Medhurst called a medical timeout but it couldn’t halt the Vixens’ momentum as they continued to build and take a huge 13-goal half-time lead.
Plummer made several changes at the long break, including moving Medhurst to goal shooter and benching Bassett, with Kate Beveridge going to goal attack.
Shae Bolton came on at wing defence as Brazill replaced Khao Watts at centre.
But that had little effect as the Vixens stretched their lead further.
When Beckford-Chambers called an injury time-out midway through the term they were already 18-points behind and by three-quarter-time they had only pulled back one goal.
Cox entered the game in the final term for Bailey, with a lively Bruce causing a few intercepts but it couldn’t stop the gap between the teams widening to 21.
With Mentor on the bench, Medhurst and Beveridge started to find their rhythm and pull back the lead.
Bolton also won several intercepts in the unfamiliar role of wing defence but in the end it was to no avail.
The Fever's next challenge is the Canterbury Tactix in Perth next Sunday and Plummer knows if they can't get on the board soon, it will be curtains already for 2014.
"Every game for us is going to be a grand final. I've never kidded myself on that and I've said that since day one," Plummer said.
"Even next week we have the Tactix, who got a couple of scalps at the pre-season so you have to be on the ball and you can't just think any game is going to be a walk in the park.
"If we want to be in the ball park, we've got to be able to get over the line."
Vixens coach Simone McKinnis, by contrast, was delighted with her team's start to the year, though would have liked to put the Fever away in the last quarter and win by more.
While the depth of the Vixens is one of their great strengths with the likes of Catherine Cox, Kate Moloney and Amy Steel coming off the bench, McKinnis knows they do need to keep up the work of Bailey, Caldwell, Mentor, Chatfield and Robinson when on the court.
"I just think we used our ball really well from the start of the game, not so much at the end, but we were using the ball really smart," she said.
"We had options at the ball and we were letting it go. We had really good defensive pressure all over the court so there was a lot to like."
The Vixens now return to Hisense Arena to take on the Queensland Firebirds next Sunday.