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Making a big impact

Mike Sciacca

So serious is the team captain of the Laguna Beach High boys’

volleyball team, that his concentration for tonight’s crucial Pacific

Coast League match with league-leading Northwood is unwavering.


“This is such a huge match for us. If we win, we can move into a share

for first place in league. I am going to do everything in my power to

help us get that win,” he said.

That statement seems to typify Wood both as a person and player.


Wood is Laguna Beach’s defensive specialist and when he’s on the

court, he certainly is one player the opposition cannot overlook.

Not one inch of his 5-foot, 7-inch frame.

“He’s not the biggest player on the court but his competitive spirit

is all about heart,” Laguna Beach coach Shawn Patchell said. “He’s the

guy who gets the match going for us and James always seems to do the

right thing.”

Wood did all the right things in last Friday’s four-game win over


rival Corona del Mar as the senior finished with 19 digs, had five blocks

and nearly “passed perfectly,” said Patchell, who hopes to get a similar

effort from his top setter tonight against Northwood.

“He’s our little general out there, and I mean that as a compliment,”

Patchell said.

Wood played football, soccer and volleyball as a freshman. He stepped

away from football after that first year but continued to play soccer

through his junior year, before giving up the sport to concentrate solely


on volleyball as a senior.

He was brought up more than two seasons ago to the varsity level,

after starting a few games as a sophomore on the the junior varsity team.

Wood’s drive and determination made up for what he lacked in height,

he said. He was only 5-foot-3 as a sophomore.

“I’ve always been on the shorter side in all the sports that I’ve

participated in, but that has never bothered me. It has never stopped me,

either,” the 18-year-old said.

Wood has made his own niche in Laguna Beach High sports, following in

the footsteps of his older brother, Patrick, who had a great career as a

quarterback with the Artists’ football program.

His father, Jim, is a former president of Laguna Beach Little League.

James Wood says he has learned a lot about what it takes to be

successful in any sport, despite a person’s stature.

“A lot of a player’s success in volleyball has to do with his

quickness, in his ability to get to the right spot,” he said.

Patchell said that it’s Wood’s tenacity that stands out.

“Once a week, we take the team to the beach and play on the sand,”

Patchell said. “And as always, James is so intense and always hustling.”

Wood says that he has only one regret when it comes to his height --

it has prevented him from playing the one position he’d love to be able

to play: outside hitter. But he doesn’t dwell on that; instead, he knows

the key role he plays on the team.

It is a role that has helped Laguna Beach stay in the thick of the

race for the Pacific Coast League title.

The mention of a possible championship quickly turned Wood’s thought’s

to tonight’s 5 p.m. match at Northwood.

“They beat us on our court two weeks ago, and I’d like nothing better

than to return the favor on their home floor,” he said.

* MIKE SCIACCA covers sports for the Laguna Beach Coastline Pilot. He

can be reached at 494-4321 or by e-mail at