How Ethan Rall has gone from overlooked to overachiever
Ethan Rall may not have heard his name called on draft night in May, but he just might in a few weeks when end of season awards are announced.
“How he’s not in the discussion for Rookie of the Year is beyond me. You can argue that he’s been the most impactful rookie in the league,” Cannons Head Coach Brian Holman affirmed.
“If you watch that game on Saturday night [against the Redwoods], I don’t know if there’s a guy that played more or harder than Ethan Rall.”
The five-foot-nine, undrafted long-stick midfielder out of Rutgers caused four turnovers, a new career-high, scooped up three ground balls and took 19 faceoffs in the Cannons OT loss to the Redwoods in Denver. Despite not playing in the season opener, Rall has now caused 16 turnovers this season, one shy of the league lead.
“I just play with a little bit of a pissed off mentality and try to create as much havoc in between the lines as possible,” Rall remarked. “It’s not that I'm trying to [cause a TO] every time, but I do always have the confidence that I’m able to take the ball away from offensive players.”
That confidence is well founded – during his time in New Brunswick, Rall caused the most turnovers in Scarlet Knights program history (85) en route to back-to-back first team All-American selections. His disruptive playmaking ability and relentless motor have translated seamlessly to the pro ranks.
Two of his four caused turnovers in the rematch against the Redwoods led directly to Cannons goals on the other end. Even though Jules Heninburg is able to get a step on Rall on this play in the second quarter, the rookie recognizes Brian Tevlin popping off the screen, anticipates the pass and puts his deft stick skills to use. Matt Kavanagh scores less than ten seconds after Rall takes it away and immediately works it up the field.
Rall has been a key piece of the Cannons man-down unit this season because of his lacrosse IQ and ball tracking ability. I’m still trying to figure out how he was able to intercept this pass from Rob Pannell. He’s displayed a keen understanding of how opposing offenses are trying to manipulate the defense, and constantly has his stick in a passing lane.
Often overlooked and underestimated because of his size, the only question that remains about Rall is how did every team let a player of his caliber pass them by? He’s caused multiple turnovers in six of his seven appearances this season, ranks fourth in the league among non-faceoff specialists with 36 ground balls, and has played an essential role at the faceoff spot for the Cannons for the last four weeks.
“Being undrafted, I didn't know how many opportunities I would get, so once I got the opportunity to play I just wanted to make it as difficult as possible for Coach [Holman] to take me off the field,” Rall said.
It’s never easy taking faceoffs against TD Ierlan, but that’s especially true when it’s your first time ever taking faceoffs in your career. Rall has taken the most draws on the Cannons in each of the last four games, and has done a good job of establishing the Boom Squad’s transition defense on losses and pushing the pace to the offensive end on the wins. As soon as the ref blows the whistle, Rall applies persistent pressure.
With the clock winding down in the third quarter against the Redwoods, Rall wins possession after losing the initial clamp to Ierlan thanks to his timely poke checks, and Asher Nolting is eventually able to get a good look at a scoring opportunity.
Although it’s true Rall was in a WaWa when he got the call from Coach Holman letting him know he’d have a spot at training camp, the Long Island native was more than ready when his moment came.
In the first quarter of his first professional game, Rall switched on to a one-on-one matchup with Josh Byrne and was up to the task. He stayed with the dangerous lefty step-for-step and ended up jarring the ball loose.
The rookie’s lack of professional experience belies his advanced knowledge of the game. He seems to always be in the right place at the right time, and has yet to take a play off. He impressed Coach Holman and his fellow LSM Cade van Raaphorst with his shrewd play at the end of the Cannons second meeting with Chrome; keeping the ball on the ground to keep the clock running and prevent the penalty against the Cannons from coming to fruition.
Ethan Rall is the quintessential role model for young lacrosse players. After going undrafted, he’s been one of the biggest difference makers on one of the best teams in the league, and he’s done it by being the hardest worker on the field and adapting to every role his coaches have asked him to fill.
Any discussion of Rookie of the Year finalists that doesn’t include Rall’s name would be incomplete.
“Just using what you know and your knowledge of the game can get you way further than people might give you credit for,” Rall reflected.
“Me being smaller when I was growing up and now being able to make it this far, I want to light that fire for kids and show them that you can be undersized and still be a defender and do great things and really make a name for yourself.”