CONCORD – Anyone who has visited Maddie Wood’s home had a pretty good indication that playing beach volleyball in college was in her future.
“We have a beach volleyball court in our back yard,” Garnet Valley’s junior setter said.
Wood determined at all of 14 years old that the beach version of the sport was her first love and she will play the beach game at the University of Tampa. Wood recently made a verbal commitment to the Spartans, who have won the last two American Volleyball Coaches Association’s Division II national championships.
“Tampa was just the right fit,” Wood said. “I was looking at FAU (Florida Atlantic University) and Coastal Carolina, UNF (University of North Florida) a little bit, schools like that, but Tampa just felt right.”
The same can be said for her love of beach volleyball.
“Beach and indoor are completely different games,” Wood said. “There are only two players in beach volleyball (as opposed to six in the indoor game) so it’s much more fun and so much more room to use your brain and be strategic. There are so many more touches and you get to be on the beach, which is awesome. That sport has my heart and I’ve been playing it since I was four.”
Another good part about playing the beach game is that she gets to team up with her younger sister, Sarah, an eighth-grader at Garnet Valley Middle School.
“My sister is 13 and she’s 6-foot-1,” Wood said. “We’re definitely very competitive with each other. We’ve been at it since she started playing beach, but we’re completely different players and have different strengths. I’m obviously not 6-1 (Maddie Wood is 5-7), but then we started playing beach volleyball as pairs and we’ve been really successful.”
Wood still enjoys the indoor game and excels at it, too. In just three years she has recorded a school-record 1,789 career assists. That includes 807 helpers this season as the Jaguars (20-4) won the Central League title for the fourth year in a row, finished fifth in the District 1 Class 4A tournament and reached the PIAA quarterfinals for the third time in the last six seasons before falling to Bishop Shanahan in a tough five-set match.
For that, Wood is the 2021 Daily Times Player of the Year.
Joining Wood on the first team, which was selected by the Daily Times sports staff after consultation with county coaches, is Garnet Valley teammate Kelly St. Germain, Cardinal O’Hara’s Bridget McGuinn and Maggie Doogan, Notre Dame’s Margo Kemp, Sun Valley’s Jenna Jones and Sacred Heart’s Emily McKenna.
McGuinn is the only repeat selection from 2019, the last time the All-Delco team was chosen. She and Doogan are the only seniors on the first team. Wood, St. Germain, Kemp and McKenna are juniors. Jones is a sophomore.
Wood is the fifth player from Garnet Valley to earn Player of the Year honors, joining Rachel Cain (2018), Erin Patterson (2017), Lizzie Herestofa (2016) and Jenna Hostetler (2014). She also is the third setter to earn first-team honors in the last five years. Cain was a two-time selection (2017, 2018) and Gabby Davis earned the honor in 2016.
“They’re all effective in their own way but she’s going to accomplish something that none of my other setters did,” Garnet Valley coach Mark Clark said. “She’s going to have four years of setting for the varsity and probably get over 2,000 assists. This year alone getting 800 assists is crazy. It’s a shame we had COVID last year because who knows what she would have gotten if we played a full season. The fact that she had 800 assists this year is amazing.”
Wood’s numbers are staggering. She averaged 33.7 assists per match to earn first-team All-Central and All-District 1 Class 4A. It helped that Garnet Valley had five players with at least 121 kills. Klaira Zakarian led the way with 201 kills followed by St. Germain (198), MaryPearl Tienabeso (192), Kate Dugery (142) and Sarah Weins (121).
That’s a pretty potent attack.
“I couldn’t do it without my teammates,” Wood said. “They’re all unique in their own way so you need to listen to your teammates. You need to know what they want, how they play and then you can put the ball in position where they can put it away. My job is to be a leader on the court and make their lives easier.”
Wood does so by being a student of the game. She studies the defense before every set. She looks for where the block is lining up and for holes in the defense and then passes the ball accordingly. She’s always aware of the situation, a trait she learned from her father, Greg, who has played the sport and coached it at the high school, club and collegiate levels, including a stint as the head coach at Garnet Valley for two seasons (2018, 2019).
“He is the one who taught me everything I know,” Wood said. “I would say we think the same way in volleyball. I’ve picked up on things just from being coached by him for so long. He’s definitely impacted me a ton.”
That includes her decision to play beach volleyball in college.
“I get to do everything in beach volleyball,” Wood said. “I get to be creative with all the touches. I love it.”
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