Roman Puglise Finally Ready for His PLL Debut


Roman Puglise was the first SSDM selected in the 2022 PLL College Draft.

When Roman Puglise steps onto the field for the Whipsnakes’ first game of the 2023 PLL Championship Series, it will have been 268 days since he last played. It will be on a field about 15 minutes from where he grew up.

Expect a party.

“It’s really a celebration of everything,” Puglise said. “For my family and my parents who have just absolutely supported me through it all, for them to be there and for it to be close to home, I think that creates a real awesome opportunity for them. To have that support coming off my injury and obviously a somewhat different game and being able to do it in front of them and have them there with me I think makes it all much better.”

Puglise’s Maryland career was highly decorated. He was a four-time Inside Lacrosse Media All-American, a 2022 USA Lacrosse Magazine first-team All American, a two-time All Big-Ten honoree and the recipient of the 2021 Big Ten Medal of Honor.

On May 10, he was the first short-stick defensive midfielder taken in the PLL Draft, going seventh overall to the Whipsnakes and continuing head coach Jim Stagnitta’s affinity for Maryland defensemen. Stagnitta was bullish on adding Puglise, envisioning him as a future All-Star.

Stagnitta praised Chrome SSDM Ryan Terefenko and Atlas SSDM Danny Logan and expressed his interest in drafting a similar player.

“With Ty Warner in med school and not knowing how long he’s going to be able to do this, and Jake Bernhardt’s at the end of his career, we feel like that’s a really important position,” Stagnitta said. “I felt like Roman was someone who had that same skill set, athleticism, toughness and ability to impact the game as Logan and Terefenko did. We just missed out on those guys the last couple of years, and we had some other needs.”

Unfortunately for Stagnitta and the Whipsnakes, Puglise never got the chance to play in 2022. During Maryland’s NCAA semifinal victory over Princeton, Puglise dislocated his wrist and tore the ligaments holding the wrist to his hand.

“It’s one of those fluke things,” Puglise said. “Basically, the only thing holding my wrist there was my skin on the outside.”

The Maryland training staff came up with a plan that involved heavily taping Puglise’s wrist so he could play in the national championship game. Puglise said it was worth it to hold the championship trophy.

Puglise said he had surgery two days after the championship game and was in a cast. He had a second surgery roughly six weeks later to “get hardware removed.”

It was not a pleasant eight weeks, and the recovery was enough for him to miss his first PLL season.

“I was just sitting there with the cast,” he said. “I can’t do much. Obviously, I can do some legs and as much as you can and stuff like that, trying to try to stay in shape as best you can, but I definitely was starting to get a bit stir crazy.”

While he couldn’t play alongside his new teammates, Puglise stayed involved in team activities. He was in consistent contact with the coaching staff about his medical progress, joined all the team Zoom meetings and even traveled to some of the games.

Puglise already had a relationship with Bernhardt. Jake’s brother Jesse was his defensive coach at Maryland, where he was also teammates with his youngest brother Jared. Jake was also a volunteer coach at Maryland when Puglise was being recruited and took him around campus. Puglise also knew the other Whipsnakes captain, long-stick midfielder Michael Erhardt, thanks to him showing up to different events and games during his time at Maryland.

With 12 other former Terps on the roster, including classmate Keegan Khan, the club provided plenty of familiarity and comfort.

Additionally, because he hadn’t started work yet, Puglise was able to throw himself into his rehab and spend extended time with his parents and three siblings, which is something he hadn’t done as much of the previous five years.

The competitor in him wanted to be on the field, but Puglise wasn’t going to let the fact he wasn’t playing break him down.

“Obviously, I lost the season, but I try to find the positives in the other areas, and I think that was a big part of my summer,” he said. “How can I stay connected with these guys and start to develop that relationship knowing that at some point you’ll be making a push to get back in that locker room and help them win championships? How can I also be working on myself and find the positive, why this might have happened, and make sure that I'm not just sitting there sulking?”

Stagnitta agreed that the time off could have been a blessing in disguise.

“They had a long season,” Stagnitta said. “They work hard at Maryland. They train hard. In some ways, having the summer off allowed him to recharge.”

Puglise said he didn’t know playing in the Championship Series would be a probability until late October. Stagnitta added that he didn’t know Puglise would be available until December, shortly before rosters were due.

Not only did he say Puglise was excited, but he was excited to see him back on the field as well. And Stagnitta sees him as a future cornerstone of the Whips.

“Spending time with him, he’s a leader,” Stagnitta said. “He’s a tough, hard-nosed guy. He’s a winner. The more guys like that you add to your roster, and the guys get to interact with him, it’s contagious.”

Puglise said getting this opportunity is a dream come true. He’s eager to spend a week focused solely on lacrosse, getting to learn from and pick the brains of his teammates — particularly fellow SSDMS Matt Abbott, who he idolized “back in the day,” and Warner, who he calls a “tremendous player.” He’s anticipating getting butterflies the first time he puts the Whipsnakes jersey on.

But he’s also enthusiastic about being a part of what he called a cool event for fans. There are a couple specific spectators he’s especially looking forward to seeing after games.

“I’m just excited,” he said. “I’m excited for the opportunity, and I’m excited to be able to give my mom a hug after that game and give my dad a hug, and — all the sacrifice they made to help me get to this point — just be able to share that moment with them.”


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