Chesapeake Bayhawks attackman Drew Westervelt has been tuning in to the Federation of International Lacrosse World Championships for the past week.
After winning a gold medal with the United States at the 2010 championships, the John Carroll and UMBC graduate has been watching this year, but not only to support his country.
Seven of Westervelt's Bayhawks teammates are competing in this year's championships in Commerce City, Colo.
Despite the absence of those players, Chesapeake's season continues Thursday night at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium against the Rochester Rattlers (7-3), who are tied for first place in the Major League Lacrosse standings. The Bayhawks (3-7), meanwhile, are last in the league, treating every game a must-win to maintain their bleak playoff hopes.
For Westervelt and Chesapeake coach Dave Cottle, missing seven players is not an excuse.
"We've got to find a way to win with what we got," Cottle said on the MLL's weekly coaches conference call Wednesday.
"I think we have some guys that are ready to step up and fill a role," said Westervelt, who was on the 52-man training roster for this year's world games but didn't make the final 30-man list. "I think it'll be an opportunity for some guys that haven't had an opportunity to jump out there. That's exciting. They're going to be running around at a thousand miles an hour, which will be fun to watch. So we'll see if we can string one together here."
Against the Rattlers, the Bayhawks will be without attackman Brendan Mundorf (UMBC, Mount St. Joseph), the team's leading goal scorer (17); midfielders Matt Abbott and Dan Burns (Maryland, Severna Park) and defenseman Jesse Bernhardt (Maryland) and Michael Evans (Johns Hopkins, South River). All are competing with Team USA, which is in the semifinals and will play Australia.
Chesapeake defender Jason Noble is playing with Canada along with 2013 MLL Player of the Year Kevin Crowley, a midfielder Chesapeake acquired at the July 8 trade deadline from the Florida Launch. Crowley has yet to suit up for the Bayhawks.
Though his team will be short-handed, Chesapeake midfielder Joe Walters — the team's leader in points with 24 (9 goals, 15 assists) — is focusing more on Rochester's roster.
"It's important to also realize that they have key players out, too. So it's not just us," said the Terps' all-time leader in goals and points.
Two of Rochester's top scorers in attackman and team captain Kevin Leveille and midfielder Dave Lawson are also playing with Team USA at the world championships. Three other Rattlers — attackmen Miles Thompson and Ty Thompson and midfielder Mike Lazore — have been competing there with the Iroquois Nationals team, though Ty Thompson tweeted Wednesday afternoon: "Heading back east to play in my first @MLL_Lacrosse game tomorrow night!"
Based the personnel each team lost to the championships, Rochester coach Tim Soudan anticipates a close game.
"I think the matchup ends up pretty even," Soudan said. "They're missing a lot of defensive guys, and we're missing some offensive guys."
With Bernhardt, Evans and Noble in Colorado, Chesapeake loses three of its top five defensemen for the matchup with Rochester, Cottle said. The Bayhawks, however, will get back veteran defenseman and former MLL All-Star Brian Spallina, who's played in just four games this year and spent most of the season on injured reserve.
Spallina will pair with defensemen Brian Megill and Nicky Polanco to help shake up a Rochester attack Polanco expects to be filled with youth because of the world championships.
"Having him back is great. I know he's been training real hard. He's excited to be back," Polanco said. "To have Brian and I back together, it's a good recipe. That'll be perfect."
It's certainly not perfect for Chesapeake to be without so many key pieces in a critical game.
Still, Walters has faith.
"We certainly have some key guys out of the lineup. You can't replace those guys," Walters said, "but that's also a chance for guys to step up."