THE Muswellbrook Netball Association's under-13 representative side's goal before the start of the HART Junior State Titles was to improve on the 2018 performance.
And, that they did.
After capturing third spot last year, the Jody Meissner-coached team - consisting of Millie Chapman, Alivia Cullen, Gabrielle Fuller, Ashleigh Loft, Imogen Meissner, Claudia Murray, Hayley Passmore, Mackenzie Pollard and Audrey Sinclair - finished runner-up in division three at Penrith's Jamison Park Complex.
Following three days of hard competition, Muswellbrook locked down second place on the ladder, four points behind Westlakes District, courtesy of 16 wins and two losses.
Ironically, one of those defeats, 10-8, came at the hands of neighbours Singleton, who snared fourth overall, with Scone & District claiming 11th.
The under-13s, however, enjoyed success at the expense of Coffs Harbour (13-5), Nelson Bay (15-7), Ballina (16-7), Tamworth (17-16), Great Lakes (16-4), Southern Highlands (21-5), Kiama (20-10), Wollondilly (23-10), Grafton (19-4), Forbes (26-6), Cessnock (29-6), Macleay (16-8), Scone & District (23-9), Griffith (25-8), Eurobodalla (35-1) and Cowra & District (27-13).
The association's under-12s also performed admirably at the same venue in Sydney, picking up sixth position in division three on the back of 12 triumphs.
Upper Hunter shone brightly in this section, too, with Singleton and Scone & District securing fifth and ninth respectively.
Muswellbrook dropped matches to Griffith (18-12), Westlakes District (21-17), Singleton (14-12) and Mudgee District (13-12) in a thriller.
But, the Carly Patterson-mentored outfit made light work of Ballina (14-9), Cowra & District (18-3), Great Lakes (14-10), Tamworth (11-10), Kiama (26-6), Eurobodalla (17-10), Coffs Harbour (22-11), Grafton (16-4), Wollondilly (23-4), Cessnock (22-7), Macleay (16-8) and Southern Highlands (16-15), while sharing the honours with Scone & District (13-all) and Nelson Bay (13-all).
"I'm very proud of the girls, especially in their first tilt at the championships," she said.
Meanwhile, the under-14s tried valiantly in their division three encounters at Penrith.
Muswellbrook ended up outside the top 10, behind Scone & District (ninth) and ahead of Singleton (18th).
The youngsters found the going tough against Griffith (17-13), Casino (24-13), Nambucca Valley (22-8), Singleton
(16-14), Port Stephens (16-9), Lismore & District (17-12), Ballina (23-7), Great Lakes (17-11), Leeton (11-10), Westlakes District (27-16), Manning Valley (22-9) and Scone & District (15-10).
However, there were some bright moments, with wins over Mudgee District (18-12), Tamworth (16-14), Southern Highlands (21-20) and Wollondilly (20-8), as well as a draw with Brunswick Byron (13-all).