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
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,”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.