For six winless weeks, the Edmonton Rush believed all they needed was a single victory to turn their year around.
But since finally notching Win No. 1, the Rush have sunk back into their losing funk. Now with just five games to go in their inaugural National Lacrosse League season, the Rush need a tremendous surge just to avoid having one of the worst years in league history.
It's bad enough that the Rush have a mountain to climb just to match the first-year "success" that the Calgary Roughnecks had in 2002 when they managed a 4-12 mark. The Roughnecks are the only team the Rush has beaten this year and the two teams meet for the final time tomorrow night.
Development. Building for the future.
Those are the key lines in the Rush's mantra. And while those sentiments are correct when appraising an expansion team's first season, a record of 1-10 speaks volumes about disappointment.
"Everyone wants to see wins now. You have one win and the people are saying 'Where's the progress?' " said Rush owner Bruce Urban. "If we were losing 27-4, I'd be panicking. Yes, the record is a disappointment but I'm not disappointed in our progress. This team is not as bad as the record indicates."
Paul Day believes in the cause, too.
"I think at the beginning of the year, the lacrosse community looked at our roster and figured we weren't going to be very good, yet the team thought we could make the playoffs," said the Rush's GM/head coach.
"I think it's sort of the other way around now. The lacrosse community has seen that we've been in almost every game and that we're competing very well.
"Last year, San Jose, which was a veteran team, lost seven one-goal games. We thought we'd lose about 50% of our games by one or two goals and we're above that."
LEARNING VALUABLE LESSONS
Day feels his club has been learning valuable lessons all season.
But on top of the fact the Rush probably won't hit the four-win plateau and equal Calgary's rookie season, they still haven't fixed a problem that's existed since the very first game.
"The biggest negative isn't our record. It's that we can't put four quarters together," said transition player Ted Jenner.
"We have our lulls in the second quarter and come out guns blazing in the fourth. If we could have that same intensity we have in the fourth in quarters one through three we'd be fine."
If the Rush ever figure that mess out, it should have a lasting effect on next year's model. But there is still time to salvage something out this season.
"I think after the Arizona game (last weekend), we wiped the slate clean and we have the mindset that it is a new season," said Day. "We can still be a spoiler in the West.
"We want to gain as much experience as we can because if we can keep this team together for a few years, I think what we're going through now is going to pay off some big dividends down the road.
"The development curve this year has been huge."
And that curve would take a gigantic swing upwards if the Rush can pull off a second win over their provincial rival. Talk about being a spoiler.
"I think it would be a real feather in their cap if they could go .500 against Calgary in their first season so we're going to have to work very hard to make sure that doesn't happen," said Roughnecks head coach Chris Hall.
QUICK STICKS: Both Rush newcomers Jason Clark and Rob Williams are expected to be in the lineup against the Roughnecks, but there are two injury problems which leave Edmonton without two defenders. Cam Bergman suffered a badly twisted ankle in San Jose and is out for at least a week and Peter Gut's knee will keep him out at least two weeks.