PLL Rookies Prepare for Pro Debuts, Bubble Lacrosse

By Marisa Ingemi | Jul 25, 2020

Every lacrosse player has envisioned themselves taking the field for the first time as a professional.

Not many of those visions have included it being in an isolated environment.

The Premier Lacrosse League Championship Series begins this weekend, and for some rookies, it’ll be their first taste of being a pro lacrosse player.

It won’t include crowds cheering them on, loved ones watching their debuts in person, or team-bonding road trips like they may have imagined, but it will still be the best competition in the world.

“It’s a different experience,” said Waterdogs goalie Matt DeLuca. “But the league’s done a great job. It’s pretty incredible they’ve done this while other sports are struggling to get together. It’s impressive.”

Like every other college lacrosse player in the country, DeLuca saw his season at Delaware come to an end prematurely, also ending his college career.

Instead of waiting around to get back on the field, though, he has an opportunity to compete for a starting job with the expansion Waterdogs and play in the PLL bubble.

“I had high expectations,” he said. “You’re playing with the best players in the world and trying to hold your own. But they have exceeded my expectations too. This is a beautiful part of our country and a beautiful facility to play on.”

Rookies across the league are preparing to play at the pro level for the first time this weekend, and the practices this week have been their only indicator of what the pace will be like.

That’s an adjustment no matter what; in the bubble, though, there are even more elements.

“There’s never been something like this,” said Redwoods faceoff specialist Peyton Smith. “It’s been great so far. Practices have been good, we look really sharp.”

Smith was one of the nation’s top faceoff specialists at Marist before being drafted, and the PLL’s depth at FOGO is no joke.

He’s going to be tested right away, and it’s a challenge he’s anticipated for years.

“When I got to college I wasn’t sure about being a pro yet, my junior year was when I broke out,” said Smith. “I wanted to sleep at night knowing I gave myself a chance to go to the next level.

Like Smith, DeLuca is preparing for his debut at a specialty position, being in the net. He’s had a long time to anticipate competing at the highest level.

It’s not something he thought he’d be doing in this environment.

“After my freshman year at Delaware, I took the starting job over,” said DeLuca. “That turned into a successful sophomore year and I had my name on the map. At that point, I thought I could do this if I put my mind to it, and I wanted to do it

“I’m not ready for it to be over.”

While it’s different to be playing in a bubble, it’s something rookies might even have an advantage about, simply because they’ve never known pro life before 2020.

Last season, the rest of the PLL stormed the continent with games from coast to coast, and they’ll have to get used to the isolation.

Rookies like Smith are just glad to be back on the field after their college careers ended quickly.

“I feel lucky,” he said. “I was there when our coach said we weren’t coming back this year and it was devastating, so I feel lucky to keep playing this guy. Everyone is ready to start playing.”

The practices every single day are also more akin to the college environment where teams are together all the time.

The only difference now for DeLuca and co is every team is in the same boat, in the same location

“It’s a little chaotic,” he said. “I’m trying to play my best game of lacrosse. It’s a different process, and we’re doing it during quarantine. I think once we’re on the field, it feels normal.”

No matter the circumstances, PLL rookies are going to become pro lacrosse players this weekend when they take the field.

Isolation or not, it’s the moment they’ve been waiting for.

“I get the chills every time I get to go to practice,” said DeLuca. “We’re ready to go.”