They’re some of the smallest Saskatchewan Rush fans, but they’ve got big heart.
In a basement lined with lacrosse memorabilia and Rush fan flare, eight-year-old Daryna Schemenauer and her younger brother Vasyli watch saved broadcasts of past home games.
They remember the plays and where, exactly, the camera shows them dancing in the stands.
“That’s where my head pops up,” Daryna points out on the big screen.
The two have attended all but one home game for the Saskatchewan Rush at SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon.
“The kids see the excitement in the game, they don’t get bored; they love the high scoring, they love the intensity; they love the music playing,” said dad, Evan.
“Our week focuses on that Saturday night in many cases, and it’s the highlight of our week.”
The kids know player names, positions and who is likely to get the most penalties. Just as impressive is their knowledge of other teams in the National Lacrosse League; none of whom can match up to their hometown heroes.
“I like Mark Matthew because he gets lots of goals,” Daryna said.
“Also, I like the Crush dance team because they dance very perfectly.”
The eight-year-old has memorized some of those moves to use this Saturday, when the Rush play their final home playoff game.
The team won the first game in the best-of-three Champion’s Cup final series against host Buffalo Bandits 11-9 on May 28.
With a win this weekend, the defending NLL champions would take the title again – this time in front of a rousing Saskatchewan crowd.
“It’s kind of the culmination of a huge success this year in Saskatoon, and there’d be nothing better than to see a final victory,” Evan said, adding he doesn’t want to get too ahead of himself.
“I am looking forward to them hoisting that cup, looking forward to the celebration after.”
The family has already had the honour of seeing such a moment last year, when the then-Edmonton Rush took home the Champion’s Cup.
The atmosphere, however, was drastically different; Evan said the arena was nowhere close to full, and good seats were easy to come by even days before the final.
So when did the passion for the Rush begin? Evan said that has to do with player Zach Greer and a tropical island.
Evan is one of the founders of lacrosse in Bermuda. The 39-year-old chartered accountant worked there for seven years in the early 2000s, and took to the sport.
“We played recreationally for many years and in 2006, we made it to the world championships,” he said.
“A lot of people would look unusually on Bermuda, but we’re actually one of the middle-ranked teams in the world right now because a lot of young Bermudian players are going to college in the U.S.,” he said.
Each September, the island hosts a lacrosse tournament and it was there Evan met a young college player by the name of Zach Greer.
Now a seven-year veteran of the National Lacrosse League and one of North America’s best players, Greer is a household name in Saskatchewan.
He’s also helping inspire young lacrosse players – like Evan’s five-year-old son, Vasyli, who just started this year.
Evan works with the field lacrosse association in Saskatoon, which has seen a marked increase in enrolment.
“They had so many children this year, they asked me to coach two teams instead of one,” he said.
“Hopefully in about ten, 15 years’ time we start to see those youth getting drafted onto the Rush and playing a productive role on the team.”
Saturday’s final home playoff game at SaskTel Centre kicks off at 7 p.m.
If the series is tied after two games, who takes the Champion’s Cup will be determined during a final game in Buffalo on June 11.