Preview: Rush look to tighten defensive play

Saskatchewan Rush transition player Jeremy Thompson (74) defends against a Colorado Mammoth player during 2017 National Lacrosse League action from Saskatoon. Josh Schaefer/

Five months removed from their heartbreaking National Lacrosse League championship loss to the Georgia Swarm, the Saskatchewan Rush are looking to build on their offensive strengths and improve on their defensive drop-off from last year.

The men’s lacrosse club narrowly lost to Georgia on June 10 at Saskatoon’s Sasktel Centre.

In gut-wrenching fashion, the Swarm tied the second game of the three-game series at 14-14 with 2.8 seconds remaining. Just over a minute into overtime, Miles Thompson scored the winner for Georgia, earning the series victory for his team and stopping the Rush from winning their third-straight league title.

Now, the Rush are in the midst of their training camp schedule. Their first preseason game will be on Saturday evening in Saskatoon, a rematch of sorts against the Swarm.

They kick off their 18-game 2017-18 regular season in Toronto on Dec. 16.

Looking ahead to the season, head coach Derek Keenan spoke with the Daily Herald about his expectations for the team.

Daily Herald: What’s your assessment of the team so far through training camp and the preseason?

Derek Keenan: We’ve only been together for one weekend, and it was a good weekend. It was typical of the NLL: We squeezed a lot of things into one weekend. We practiced twice and we had a scrimmage against Toronto.

For our first time together, we were sharp. But for the start of a season, we were rusty. We were a little bit sloppy in terms of our fundamentals. But our fitness level was really good.

The new guys fit in extremely well on the offence.

DH: Do you plan to continue your offensive strategy of ball-cycling and setting up screens?

DK: We always add little wrinkles to our offence. Our offence was equally effective last year as it was the year before.

(Forward) Mark Matthews is obviously a star, but he’s also a really unselfish player. And that’s really the way our entire gorup is. They share the ball extremely well. So there won’t be any big significant changes.

One of the changes personnel-wise is bringing in Jeff Shattler (a free agent signee). From what I saw over the weekend I really liked. He’s a multi dimensional player.

We’re looking for our biggest improvement defensively.

For more on this story, please see the Nov. 15 print edition or e-edition of the Daily Herald.