Favorite athlete: Bethany Hamilton
Favorite sports team: Messiah Falcons Women’s Lacrosse Team--My team next year :)))
Favorite Memory Competing in Sports: Beating PW in overtime last lacrosse season after losing by 15 the year before. It was just a really cool thing to experience with my team.
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that happened to me while playing sports: Sitting on the court at Hatboro-Horsham, bleeding from my nose, waiting 45 seconds before the trainer could get out to me.
Music on mobile device: Lots of Jon Bellion, Jeremy Zucker, and The Band Camino.
Future plans: Play on the Messiah Women’s Lacrosse Team and eventually become a missionary.
Words to live by: “Always be the hardest worker on and off the field.”
One goal before turning 30: Have my pilot’s license!
One thing people don’t know about me: I have a slight phobia of olives.
By Mary Jane Souder
AbbyEllen Wood was born into a family of competitors.
“My family is super, super into sports,” the Upper Moreland senior said. “All of my siblings play. My mom was a competitive dancer and ran track in high school, and my dad played sports in high school, and we love it.
“We’re the type of family that brings all the different games to the beach, the family parties and things like that. If we have free time, we’re out in the backyard having a (catch) or playing keep-away or something like that.”
Wood, although never a headliner, was an invaluable part of both the basketball and lacrosse programs for four years and a two-year captain in both.
“Every successful team needs an AbbyEllen,” UM basketball coach Matt Carroll said.
Wood’s value is not measured by the numbers she puts up or even by the fact that she is a shutdown defender in both sports. Rather it’s the intangibles she brings to the court and field.
For starters, she’s a gamer. Early in her final high school basketball season, Wood jammed her thumb and two fingers. A visit to the doctor confirmed she had torn ligaments.
“I said, ‘If I tape it, can I play?’ They said, ‘Yes, you can do that,’” Wood recalled. “I went to the trainer, and he would tape it before practices and games.”
Fast forward to Jan. 29 and the Golden Bears’ basketball game at Hatboro-Horsham. As Wood was diving for a loose ball rebound, a Hatter player tripped and fell on her when she was down.
“She landed on the back of my head, and my face smashed on the floor,” Wood said. “I remember looking up, and I was like, ‘What’s going on?’
“I looked at my hands – there was blood everywhere. I went back into the training room, and the trainer was awesome. He stuck cotton up my nose with stuff to clot the bleeding. I said, ‘Coach, can I go back in?’ He said ‘Absolutely not, please sit down.’ So I sat the rest of the game. It was super nerveracking – we only won by one.”
The next day Wood ordered a facemask and got back on the court to – in her words – “do what I could to help my team.”
“A week and a half later when the swelling went down, I realized my nose was a little crooked, so I went to the doctor, and he said it was actually broken,” Wood said. “He said the best way to deal with it was to have quick surgery.
“I’m praising Jesus that everything in the surgery went perfectly well. The doctors were really awesome. I had to wear the facemask the rest of the season, and I got back just in time to play in our (district) playoff game, which was good.”
According to Carroll, Wood’s response to both situations effectively sums up the type of player she is.
“She puts her own worries aside for the betterment of the team,” the UM coach said. “She’s really a selfless kid.”
Listening to Wood talk about the two incidents several themes begin to emerge – the UM senior is not only a gamer, she is the consummate team player, and there’s no mistaking that her faith is paramount.
So it’s hardly surprising that while both coaches have glowing praise for her play, they are even more enthusiastic when they talk about AbbyEllen Wood, the person.
“She’s that good wholesome kid that people respect because she’s a good human being,” UM lacrosse coach Kim Frantz said. “She’s somebody they’ll look to as a positive role model. She’s an awesome kid – her whole family is awesome.”
“We always joke that we don’t have any female coaches on our staff,” Carroll said. “She was like the mom – she was the female coach of the team.
“She was like the mature adult in the room who wasn’t either a grown man or a high school girl. Even as a ninth grader, she was always vocal, which is kind of rare for an underclassmen. It’s always difficult to try and make kids communicate if that’s not in their comfort zone. Having her right away was pretty awesome.”
Wood has been competing in sports most of her life. She began playing basketball when she was five through Upward Sports, a Christian sports league for children K through eighth grades.
In second grade, she was introduced to lacrosse through the township program initiated by former UM great Shannon (Feite) Meakim, the mother of teammate Emma Meakim.
“I loved it right away,” said Wood, who attended elementary school at Calvary Christian Academy. “I played with a bunch of different girls. When I was little, I wasn’t in school in Upper Moreland Township, so I was friends with all of them through sports.
“Freshman year there were 11 of us who have been playing together since we were super little. When I got to high school, I had the honor of being able to start and play with my sister who is two years older than me (MaddieGrace) for two years.”
Wood found an immediate home in the defensive backfield.
“She’s not the person on the team that gets recognition necessarily, but she’s a great leader on and off the field just because of the person she is,” Frantz said. “She’s a key to my defense because of her communication skills.
“She just keeps that positive vibe for everyone. She’s the kid – if we’re not playing well, she’ll find a way to spark people and get people going. She always has the right thing to say at the right time.”
One of 10 seniors on this year’s squad, Wood and her teammates entered the season with high hopes only to see it cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was really hard and still is really hard,” she said. “I know all of us were really looking forward to this last season together. We had some really big goals for this season.
“The past three years we’ve gotten stopped in the second round of districts, and we really felt this year we wanted to go to states and also bring back the league title. It was really hard for all of us, but we have a great team, and we’ve all been staying in touch.”
Wood is one of six seniors going on to play at the collegiate level. She will be attending Messiah College, choosing the private Christian school from a final list that included a pair of Division I schools – Liberty University and Monmouth University.
“I would have loved to have been able to finish high school playing the sport I love and just being with those awesome girls,” Wood said. “It was definitely an abrupt end to a long time with those girls.”
Basketball is Wood’s second sport and she didn’t decide to go out for the team until the day of tryouts in ninth grade.
“I thought I would really regret it if I didn’t try out and see if I liked it,” she said. “I went to tryouts and I loved it. The coaches were amazing and the girls were really amazing. There was an instant connection and I knew I wanted to play.”
This year, Wood was joined on the court by her younger sibling, EmmyFaith, who made an immediate impact as a freshman.
“That was really, really awesome,” Wood said. “She’s an incredible player and an awesome girl. It was super fun to just be on the court with her.”
If ever a player was an advertisement for the fact that scoring points isn’t everything, Wood could be the poster child. She averaged less than five points while seeing over 26 minutes of playing time a game.
“She plays defense for lacrosse, and a lot of that translates to basketball,” Carroll said. “There were games like against Upper Dublin that her sister got a lot of accolades because she made five threes and scored 20 points.
“Meanwhile, AbbyEllen is getting beat up in the post covering (three-time all-state center) Jackie Vargas. She covers the other team’s best player regardless of their position.”
For her part, Wood is perfectly happy focusing on the thankless job of playing defense.
“I’m not the most talented scorer,” she said. “But something my parents used to say to us growing up was to always be the hardest working player on the field or on the court, so going into games, I had the mentality that I just wanted to work as hard as I could to honor God, and my defense is the best way I knew how to do that.”
The first Upper Dublin game of the season – a stunning 40-37 upset win over the perennial district and state power – was the highlight of a successful season for Wood and her teammates.
“For the seniors, coming from our freshman year when we were 0-22, we really wanted to see results and we wanted to see the program grow,” Wood said. “We just really wanted to work hard and see how far we could go.
“(Beating) Upper Dublin has always been a goal for us just because they’re so incredibly talented. They have a really, really great coach, and we respect their team so much. I just remember at the end of the game I looked over at our bench and all our girls were holding hands and really cheering us on.
“Some of us have games where we don’t get much playing time and we don’t see the court much, but we just really wanted to encourage each other. I just think something that’s so cool is we really support each other even when we’re not getting what we want.”
Wood smiles when she thinks of Carroll’s description of her as the team mom/female coach.
“I think I did have a unique role with that team,” she said. “All four of our coaches are awesome, intentional, and have done such an incredible job building up our program, but by nature of having four male coaches, sometimes female influence was really helpful with our girls.
“I have really close and great relationships with the other upperclassmen, but something that I have really tried to do is welcome and encourage the underclassmen. I have always tried to be an open and inviting person, and someone that people feel like they can easily talk to. The girls really feel like sisters to me, and I often tried to communicate what our team was thinking or feeling to our coaches - when appropriate. I love to see everyone included, and I think that our team has done a great job of being true friends on and off the court.”
Serving as captain of two sports was in Wood’s own words “an incredible experience.”
“I really try to always lead by example, and encourage in every and any way that I can,” she said. “I have had leaders and captains who have really encouraged me, and I really wanted to be able to be that for other people. I loved getting to know the girls on both the basketball and lacrosse team, and growing with them as a person, player, and a leader has been such a great thing in my life.”
Also an excellent student, Wood is president of UM’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes. She is active in her church – Davisville Church - and serves as co-leader of a small group of seventh grade girls.
When Wood was in sixth grade, her family – she is the second of four siblings – travelled to Cambodia to serve with missionaries there. Two years ago, she went to Ethiopia for a week with her father to help run a sports camp for kids.
“We had the opportunity to meet a little boy and now we sponsor him,” she said. “I’m hoping to go back and see him when he’s grown up.”
Wood has also been involved in service locally, including working with Philly Project. Still, she always found time to work hard at her sports.
“She’s been the type of kid who won’t make a workout and she’ll feel awful, but she’s in a different country with missions work,” Carroll said. “That’s just the type of kid and the type of family they are. They’re always putting other people first.”
Although uncertain of a major, Wood has her sights set on working in missions.
“I really have a heart for people and I would really like to be able to help in any way I can – I’d love to take my major and be able to teach or help do research or anything like that,” she said, going to credit her parents, Geoff & Jennifer Wood. “They are the best ever and have been constant support systems through everything.”
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