High School Sports

On 9/11, this Coppell senior took a deeply personal loss and turned it into a big win

Coppell senior Pierce Woodall
Coppell senior Pierce Woodall Courtesy

Coppell senior Pierce Woodall is a standout on the Cowgirls volleyball team, which is 33-8 this season and ranked in the Top 10 of the Class 6A state poll.

She’s second on the team in kills and is committed to Columbia University in New York.

Woodall registered a career-high 24 kills against Hebron, the three-time defending 6A state champion, back on Sept. 11, a difficult day for the entire country, but one that especially hits home for her.

She didn’t go to school that day. She doesn’t attend class on Sept. 11 every year.

Pierce’s father, Brent, was working on the 89th floor of the World Trade Center’s South Tower that morning. His building was the second tower to be hit when United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into floors 75-85 at approximately 9:03 a.m. ET.

Brent, along with nearly 3,000 others, lost their lives that day.

Pierce never met her father. She was born seven months later.

“People have said that he was really caring and loved everybody and everybody loved him,” Woodall said. “He was a great person to be around and some people have said maybe he didn’t make it out because he stopped to help somebody else. That’s just the kind of person he was.”

Brent was born in Dallas before moving to California where he graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. He played football and baseball before going on to pitch in Single-A for the Chicago Cubs, but a shoulder injury ended his career after two seasons.

Brent took a job in New York in 1995 and married Pierce’s mother, Tracy, in 2000.

“It’s really a major part of my life that I don’t talk about and not a lot people know,” Pierce said.

Woodall first found out about her dad’s passing when she was 5, although she didn’t fully understand it until a few years later.

Even now, she stays away from watching any footage that took place that day 17 years ago.

But Woodall did have to do a video in class with the question asking “what defines you?”

“Maybe it’s not that event that defines me, but from it I’ve learned to embody him and play for him,” Woodall said.

Two years after Brent’s death, Pierce’s mother set up the Brent Woodall Foundation for Exceptional Children. Her mission was to provide families affected by autism and other developmental disabilities with the resources, tools and guidance they need to be the best advocates for their children.

Tracy was a star volleyball player at Columbia, a big reason why Pierce is following in her footsteps.

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Coppell senior Pierce Woodall Joe Lorenzini Courtesy

“My mom is everything to me. She means the world to me,” Woodall said. “To see the person she is and see how strong she is, and knowing she had to go through that makes her my role model. She was pregnant with me and came out of it so strong. That’s why I was like okay, I have to go to Columbia — that’s where she went and why would I go anywhere else. I went up for a visit and loved it there, and I think it was just meant to be. New York just felt like home.”

Hebron had come into the season having won 40 or more games each of the past three years. Coppell won 25-12, 25-14, 24-26, 25-17 to hand the Hawks their first district loss since September 2016.

It was the first time Coppell had a game on Sept. 11 during Woodall’s three-year career.

“I think Pierce is a great kid and exceptional athlete. Knowing that 9/11 is hard for her and her family — I’ve never seen her play like that. It was lights out,” coach Julie Price said. “I think she had about eight or 10 kills in the first set and was making blocks and ridiculous saves all over the place — I looked at my coaches and thought if she can keep it up, we’re going to win this game on her.

She finished with a .435 hitting percentage, six digs, two blocks and one ace.

“Just knowing it was a difficult day for her personally, it was exciting to see her on the court and play great, and it became such a triumph day for her and her teammates,” Price said. “There was a different feeling that night in the arena, crowd and huddle, and it was nice to finish the day on a positive note.”

And of course there was one fan that shined the brightest that night.

“If not in the forefront of my mind, he was definitely in the back and he was definitely rooting for me,” Woodall said. “I had one of the best games of my life. I had a really good day, but at the same time I had a lingering feeling. I think it was overshadowed because knowing it was 9/11 and it being in the back of my mind — if my dad could’ve been here, he would’ve been proud.”

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