CONCORD — Anyone who 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 backyard,” said the Garnet Valley junior setter.
Wood determined at age 14 that the beach version of the sport was her first love and she would 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 Division II National Championships.
“Tampa was the right fit,” Wood said. “I was kind of looking at FAU (Florida Atlantic University) and Coastal Carolina, UNF (University of North Florida), schools like that, but Tampa felt good.”
The same can be said for his love of beach volleyball.
“The beach and the indoors are completely different games,” Wood said. “There are only two players in beach volleyball (compared to six in indoor play), so it’s a lot more fun and a lot more room to use your brain and be strategic. There are so many more keys and you get to the beach which is awesome. This sport is close to my heart and I have been practicing it since the age of four.
Another perk of the beach game is that she can 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 are definitely very competitive with each other. We’ve been at it since she started playing at the 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 a duo and we really hit it off.
Wood still loves the indoor game and excels at it too. In just three years, she recorded a school-high 1,789 career assists. That includes 807 assists this season as the Jaguars (20-4) won the Central League title for the fourth consecutive year, finished fifth in the District 1 Class 4A tournament and reached the PIAA quarter-finals for the third time in the past 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 in the first team, which was selected by the Daily Times sports staff after consultation with county coaches, is Garnet Valley teammate Kelly St. Germain, Bridget McGuinn and Maggie Doogan of Cardinal O’Hara, Margo Kemp of Notre Dame, Jenna Jones of Sun Valley and Emily McKenna of Sacred Heart.
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 in second grade.
Wood is the fifth Garnet Valley player to win Player of the Year honors, joining Rachel Cain (2018), Erin Patterson (2017), Lizzie Herestofa (2016) and Jenna Hostetler (2014). She is also the third setter to earn first-team honors in the past five years. Cain was selected twice (2017, 2018) and Gabby Davis won the honor in 2016.
“They’re all effective in their own way, but she’s going to accomplish something that none of my other passers have done,” Garnet Valley coach Mark Clark said. “She’s going to have four years of tuning for college 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 had played a full season. The fact that she had 800 assists this year is incredible.
Wood’s numbers are staggering. She averaged 33.7 assists per game to earn First Team All-Central and All-District 1 Class 4A. It helped that Garnet Valley had five players with at least 121 eliminations. Klaira Zakarian led the way with 201 kills, followed by St. Germain (198), MaryPearl Tienabeso (192), Kate Dugery (142) and Sarah Weins (121).
It’s a pretty powerful attack.
“I couldn’t do it without my teammates,” Wood said. “They are all unique in their own way, so you have to listen to your teammates. You have to know what they want, how they play and then you can put the ball in a position where they can put it away. My job is to be a leader in the field and to make their lives easier.
Wood does this by studying the game. She studies defense before every set. She looks for where the block lines up and holes in the defense, then passes the ball accordingly. She’s always situationally aware, a trait she learned from her father, Greg, who played the sport and coached it at the high school, club and college levels, including a stint as a head coach. at Garnet Valley for two seasons (2018, 2019).
“He’s the one who taught me everything I know,” Wood said. “I would say we think the same way about volleyball. I understood things just because I was dragged by him for so long. He definitely touched me a ton.
This includes his decision to play beach volleyball in college.
“I can do anything in beach volleyball,” Wood said. “I can be creative with all the keys. I love it.”