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Saskatchewan Rush look to 'better mentality next year' as they miss playoffs again

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The Saskatchewan Rush are absent from the National Lacrosse League playoffs for a third straight season, a difficult end to an postseason push born out of a rocky start.

“It’s an empty feeling,” Head Coach Jimmy Quinlan said following Saturday’s 12-11 loss to the league-leading Toronto Rock that sealed the team’s fate.

“It's just tough, because no one wanted to go out that way,” said veteran forward Robert Church.

The team finished the 2023/24 season with an 8-10 record, bouncing back from a 1-4 start in their first five.

Ultimately, they finished in eighth place league-wide, but sit out of the playoffs due to the NLL’s tiebreaker rules.

A narrow playoff miss is far from ideal for the team in lime green, but coaches say they witnessed a level of improvement in the team’s play over the course of the season.

“The last month of the season where we were playing do or die lacrosse. I think there's a lot that that group can learn from and take moving forward, and they'll be better in the future," Quinlan said.

“There wasn't one player who didn't get better as the season went on, and that's again what you want to see. The future's bright, it's just unfortunate we're not playing next week."

Early season struggles were also not without blame, but it’s one of the lessons Quinlan hopes the team will carry into next year.

“You want those ones back, but you don't get those ones back,” Quinlan said. “So it's that idea of making sure that right from the get go, and in every game, you're playing with that urgency and that desperation that we showed over the last half of the season."

"We got to come in next year and have a better mentality of winning games and knowing what it takes to win games,” Church said. “You can look back at any game throughout the year and kind of say ‘if we didn't blow that lead, or if we would've gotten one more goal, we'd be sitting in a pretty good position,’ where it came down to the last game and unfortunately weren't able to get it done."

Church, who’s closing off his tenth season with the Rush organization, said he’s looking forward to seeing more of what the young team can do together.

“We have our heads high because we showed we can play with the best teams,” Church said. “We're a young squad and we really grew throughout the year with guys improving big time. I think we're going to be a good team for years to come.”

The Rush have not made the playoffs since 2019, but they were sitting in first place when the COVID-19 pandemic cut the 2020 season short.

The 2024 NLL postseason begins Saturday, with the bottom seed Rochester Knighthawks taking on the Toronto Rock.

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