The University of Colorado lacrosse team gathered on Sunday evening knowing its hope of playing at least one more game was tenuous at best.
Once those doubts were confirmed with the Buffs' omission from the NCAA Tournament field, head coach Ann Elliott was quick to point out there was absolutely no hope of a postseason berth for the Buffs just a year ago.
A year from now, the Buffs expect to be on the other side of the tournament bubble.
"We knew we had a chance, but it was going to come down to other factors and what other teams did," Elliott said. "At the end of the day we didn't win big games and I think that was a difference-maker for us this year, and it's what we have to focus on going into next year."
A season that saw the third-year program post a record 13 wins unofficially came to an end on April 29 with a loss at Stanford in the semifinals of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament. Officially, after a week of workouts just in case, it ended when the Buffs were left out of the 26-team tournament field Sunday evening.
Elliott and the Buffs can point the finger at games like the final matchup against Stanford as the reason why they were unable to get over the postseason hump this year.
CU went only 1-5 against NCAA Tournament teams during the 2016 season — losing to Notre Dame, Northwestern, USC and twice against Stanford while edging in overtime a James Madison team that eventually landed one of the final spots in the tournament.
Elliott does not want her team to overlook the accomplishments they put together this spring. However, with every player but one set to return next season, getting results in those high-end matchups needs to be the next step in the program's swift evolution.
"We just have to continue improving on what we did this year, and that's what we've done every year," Elliott said. "We put ourselves in a position where we had a chance. Last year, we didn't have a chance to make the tournament. This year, we had a chance.
"We did not have any bad losses, but the next step is winning games against good teams. That's what we have to do. I think our girls understand how big of a difference that makes."