Jeff Hopkins praised Melbourne Victory's growth throughout the Westfield W-League season as it looks ahead to a home Semi Final.
Victory secured second place on the table with its best performance of the season so far, a 3-1 win over Sydney FC at Marvel Stadium on Saturday.
After collecting five points from its opening five games, Victory went on to grab 18 from its next seven, winning six.
Hopkins said Victory's improvement as the campaign has gone on has been pleasing as it looks ahead to facing Sydney again in a Semi Final at Epping Stadium on Saturday, March 14.
"We had a tough start, we had the Asian Club Championship as well to contend with, we didn't really have a great pre-season in terms of friendly games," he said after Saturday's win.
"From the start we had to get to where we are, it's been a huge effort from the players.
"We've got better and better each week I think and we've kind of worked at doing that so when we get to this time of season we're kind of not at our peak, but hopefully that will be in three weeks' time.
"The players have got to take a huge amount of credit for the way they've embraced it and worked with it."
After a 3-0 loss to Sydney FC in the opening round, a Natasha Dowie brace – and penalty save from Casey Dumont – saw Victory beat Roar 3-2 in Brisbane in November.
A 1-1 draw with the high-flying Western Sydney Wanderers followed before late Derby heartbreak against City.
But the Derby loss would lead to a tactical switch which has helped Victory turn its season around.
Flying into the break with a back three
Victory switched to a back three for a 0-0 draw against Brisbane at Epping Stadium just before Christmas.
While the result may not have been what Victory wanted, the change led to huge improvement as it won four straight games – beating Perth Glory and the Newcastle Jets 2-1 and Adelaide United and Canberra United 3-0.
The formation change meant Victory was a greater threat in attack, highlighted by braces from Amy Jackson (against Perth) and Melina Ayres (against Canberra).
Victory was riding a high, but the international break came at a bad time for Hopkins' side and it was punished in a heavy Derby loss in mid-February.
Victory saves its best for last
The response to the Derby loss was impressive by Victory, which headed to Newcastle and crushed the Jets 7-0 for its biggest ever win.
That, and other results, gave Victory hope of finishing second and it took the chance.
Darian Jenkins' brace helped it beat Sydney FC 3-1 in the final round in what Hopkins described as Victory's best performance of the season, clinching second place.
Victory will face the Sky Blues again in a Semi Final at Epping Stadium on Saturday, March 14.