When entering a playoff game you never contemplate the possibility of losing, so when you lose, everything seems to end very abruptly. Your routine is the same over the course of about 5 months, so it takes a little time to readjust and refocus. I think the most difficult part is leaving your teammates. You become so close and when the season ended last Saturday night, everyone kind of went their separate ways.
The locker room is quiet, subdued, everyone trying to digest and process what happened and accept the reality of moving on. There isn't much to say, other than to thank your coaches, trainers, and teammates for their effort and commitment. For our group, we seemed to get tighter as the year went on. There was quite a bit of turnover from the year prior and it took a little time to really get to know each other. By the end of the year, all the guys really enjoyed being around each other on and off the floor and bonded through some of the success and adversity experienced throughout the year.
Nine teams enter the year all with the same expectation. The reality is, there will be eight disappointed teams. It is really a year, more so than any other year I've been in the league, where the championship is up for grabs. You catch yourself asking a lot of "what ifs," dwelling on some little plays in the game ... a loose ball here, a missed shot there, etc. You can drive yourself crazy reliving the game, especially considering how slim the margin of victory was for us last Saturday night. Ultimately you have to accept that the better team won. You earn the breaks and you earn the little inches of the game.
Could I have done more? Did I prepare the right way? I think it is important to move on, but also to take a critical look in the mirror and ask yourself what you have learned through the experience and how can you be better in the future.
It feels like an opportunity lost, but that said, my teammates should be proud of the effort and move forward with very few regrets. Although it is a little overwhelming to think of starting the process all over again, I do think this team will be back and hopefully ready to take the next step.
I want to thank the fans and the organization for allowing me to write this blog every week. It has been fun to reflect on different issues in lacrosse and sport and share an inside perspective from player in the NLL. Who knows what will happen in the off season, but I do believe the Wings finally have a solid core to build around and hopefully a foundation for future success.