Alex Woodall started playing lacrosse in the third grade and always played midfield and on offense. He also handled face-offs but it was in 7th or 8th grade when his team started letting other players take the draws.
And that didn’t sit too well with him.
“I really just liked the face-offs so much that I would get jealous seeing other people taking draws when I wanted to take them,” said Woodall.
So, Alex went up to his coach to share his thoughts on the matter and let it be known that he wanted to be in the middle of the field for each and every face-off.
“Once you get to 8th grade, you realize that people were solely just taking face-offs so I wanted to focus on that,” said Woodall. “That’s what I want to do and I want to be the best at it.”
And the rest, as they say, is history for the Riptide’s face-off specialist and transition player.
Following a fabulous collegiate career at Towson, the 23-year old Woodall was the first overall pick by the Ohio Machine in the 2019 Major League Lacrosse draft and subsequently was signed via Rookie Selection by the Atlanta Blaze after the Ohio franchise was contracted. Woodall would set Atlanta single-season franchise records with 255 face-off wins and 140 ground balls.
And now Woodall has taken his talents indoors after signing with the Riptide as a rookie free agent this past September.
“I’ve fallen in love with it,” said Woodall who continues to adapt to the box game. “It’s almost like a completely different game than field. I knew it would be tough getting the hang of things. There’s just something about the game of box that I’ve fallen in love with and I want to be able to play it for a long time.”
At Towson, Woodall was a dominant force on face-offs, especially in his senior season when he won a staggering 74.2 percent of the draws, the 2nd best mark in the country and also the 2nd best percentage in school history. His total of 227 victorious face-offs was also second best in school history and his amazing season landed him on the 2019 All-ECAC and All-CAA 1st Teams.
Woodall is still cutting his teeth in the indoor game while also taking on some additional responsibilities.
“He’s just getting better every game,” said head coach and general manager Regy Thorpe of Woodall who was also taken 4th overall by the Whipsnakes in the 2019 Premier Lacrosse League draft. “He’s certainly given us more opportunities and more possessions, but as a team we need to take advantage of that and utilize that. We’re trying to get his minutes up on the defensive door so he can be a duel threat.”
Throughout his youth, high school, college and outdoor professional experience, Woodall’s job was predominately “FOGO” meaning he went out for the face-off and got off the field. In the National Lacrosse League, the face-off specialist is also used in transition meaning that Woodall has had to get adjusted to having an important role on the field after the draw.
“When I play box, you have to be a little more of a lacrosse player and play some defense when they need you,” said Woodall. “Box lacrosse is helping my lacrosse game as a whole in every aspect.”
So far this season, Woodall has won 99 out of 192 face-offs for the Riptide. There is a different to taking a draw indoors as opposed to outdoors on the big field, so Woodall is basically going through on the job training as he continues to learn the nuances of life in the NLL.
As soon as he steps on the field, either at the Nassau Coliseum or when the Riptide are on the road, Woodall knows that he’s in a vastly different environment that he has been accustomed to throughout his career. The indoor game is different, it’s fast, and the field is surrounded by hockey dasher boards and glass.
“It’s closer quarters so on the face-off it’s a little bit tougher and you have to have different strategies than field,” said Woodall. “I still have a lot of work to do but I’m having fun learning each week and getting better.”
Woodall’s hard work and his development has certainly not gone unnoticed.
“He’s progressing,” said Thorpe. “He’s not only winning them solid but he’s utilizing the ball team.”
To really sum up just how far Woodall has come playing box lacrosse in just a short amount of time, let’s dive into his numbers just a little more and focus on two recent games that opened up some eyes around the lacrosse world.
On January 4th, the Riptide welcomed Trevor Baptiste and the Philadelphia Wings to the Coliseum. Baptiste, especially with the recent retirement of legendary former New York Lizard Greg “The Beast” Gurenlian, is considered by many to be the best face-off specialist in the world. That night, Woodall held his own against Baptiste winning 14 out of 29 draws. Then on January 24th against the Wings in Philadelphia, Baptiste had his hands full with Woodall again as Alex won 11 out of 24 face-offs.
Overall this season, Baptiste has won 118 out of 164 face-offs, a winning percentage of 72% against the entire league. Against Woodall, Baptiste’s number are not nearly as good as he won 28 out of 53 face-offs for a winning percentage of 53%.
An amazing accomplishment for Woodall, a box lacrosse rookie!
“I prepped a lot for Trevor,” said Woodall. “I watch him a lot with everything he does. That shows just how much potential I have. I’m at about the .500 mark but I believe that I’m so much better than that. Going toe to toe with Trevor like that really shows that. Those games against Trevor really helped me and the other ones against guys who aren’t as good are trying to stand up to me.”
Woodall is already in the upper echelon of face-off specialists in the NLL. Baptiste is at the top of the list statistically and he’s followed by Jake Withers of Halifax who has won 116 out of 150 draws for a winning percentage of 77%.
So, who is third in the NLL? Number 9 for your New York Riptide Alex Woodall!
Growing up in Annapolis, Maryland, Woodall didn’t really focus in on any specific face-off guy to emulate. Sure, there’s Baptiste and “The Beast”, but Woodall just simply put the work in and basically self-taught his way to being one of the brightest young face-off specialists in the world.
“(Greg) Gurenlian is definitely the guy for all face-off guys who everybody has learned from,” said Woodall. “Growing up when I was taking face-offs my parents never got me into lessons so I just took bits and pieces from every face-off guy that I watched. I just practiced what they would do and see if it would work for me.”
And even today, Woodall hasn’t stopped learning and hasn’t stopped trying to add different strategies to his repertoire. He’s still putting in the work and watching film to take his game to the next level.
“Even today, I don’t have one certain way of doing anything,” said Woodall. “If I see Trevor utilize a move that works a lot of in box, I’m going to start practicing that because I need everything in my arsenal to make me better.”
And that is a piece of advice that Woodall wants to pass down to young players who aspire to be the best they can be at winning face-offs. It doesn’t hurt to go to clinics and camps and to learn from some of the top names in the business, but a young player can also learn a lot simply from observing.
“I’d say definitely watch as much face-offs as you can on YouTube and at games,” said Woodall. “A lot of times people think that they need lessons but you need to watch other people’s games and notice little things that they do.”
As the Riptide continue to make strides as an expansion team in their inaugural NLL season, there are certainly a number of terrific young players to watch on the team like 1st overall pick Tyson Gibson along with the likes of Tyson Bomberry, Travis Longboat and Jean-Luc Chetner.
But just like young fans flocked to Greg “The Beast” Gurenlian for many years after New York Lizards games to get autographs, Alex Woodall is certainly a player that could very well become a fan favorite on the Riptide. He’s already laid the groundwork for success and he hasn’t even scratched the surface to where his potential will bring him.