KEARNEY — Kearney High coaches say one thing about junior multisport star Adi Wood.
They’re happy she’s on their team.
Volleyball coach Jessica Day doesn’t hesitate to rave about Wood’s positive attitude, her hard work, her competitive drive and the great effort she gives at all times.
"Adi is the ultimate teammate and the ultimate team player and one of the hardest-working young women that I’ve ever been around," Day said.
And Wood delivers.
A record-setting libero on Day’s volleyball team, the leading scorer on the basketball team and a state track meet placer in the triple jump, Wood has been selected as this year’s Kearney Hub Female Prep Athlete of the Year.
Wood has grown up in a family where participation in sports has been a priority. Her older sister, Avery, plays softball at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Adi already has committed to the Lopers to play volleyball.
UNK coach Rick Squiers "knows athletes and competitors when he sees them and he saw that early in her … so he went after her early and she’s extremely excited to be a Loper," Day said.
She will have the credentials.
Wood set the Kearney High single-season record for digs this year with 790. Along the way, she set the single-game digs record at 43 and already has broken the career digs record with 1,537. She also owns the career record in ace serves with 121.
"She’s going to continue to break more records and set the bar incredibly high for future Bearcats," Day said.
However, Wood doesn’t list any of those records as a highlight for the last year. Instead, she turns to the success of her teams.
"In volleyball, we were able to compete at a high level and beat some of the teams we haven’t been able to beat before. We’ve just been continuing to climb the mountain in where our program has been going the past few years," she said.
The KHS girls track team has maintained an exceptional level of excellence, finishing in the top three each of the last three years with Wood contributing to the scoring total each year.
And she ranks the basketball team’s district tournament victory over Millard South, the eventual state runner-up, as the best game of her career.
"We came in as the underdogs and no one thought we would even make it there and we came out and showed them. … Getting to state was awesome," Wood said.
Wood already had made her mark on the volleyball team during her freshman year. She was a starting back-row player from opening day. It was a switch for her. She had been a setter growing up.
"I was a little kid and I’ve always wanted to set as my mom was a setter and she really tried to get me into that. I really just kind of fell in love with that," Wood said. "Then coming in my freshman year, me and Coach Day had a talk and she moved me to libero. Ever since then I’ve been playing libero and I really love both of those positions and will play either one any day."
By then, Wood had gained some valuable experience making transitions. The family moved from Grand Island, where she expected to attend Northwest, to Kearney before her eighth-grade year.
She was nervous about making the step up from Class B to Class A while working with coaches and teammates she did not know. It worked out that she didn’t really have to worry.
"I’ve had the best coaches and teammates that have helped me to get where I am now," she said.
Wood started every match in volleyball and never hesitated to move on to the next sport when the season changed. Even though she has committed to play volleyball in college, she has already played in a basketball tournament in Denver and Lincoln.
"I think playing basketball is just as important as is volleyball, as is track, as really all the sports help in multiple ways," she said. " I definitely wouldn’t be where I’m at now if I didn’t compete in all three sports and give all three sports the attention I give volleyball and work my hardest at all of them.
"All three of them give me things that can help in the other sports and go along with making me a better athlete in the other sports."
Together, or separate, they provide life lessons.
"They definitely have helped me to be a better person. They teach you how to deal with things and overcome things that don’t always go your way. They teach you how to be determined and they help you create friendships," she said.
Wood will be ready when she has to give up the other sports to concentrate on volleyball. She committed to UNK in January because it fits what she wants to do academically and athletically as she studies to become an elementary school teacher.
And she’s ready to play libero, while not a glamorous position, certainly one of great importance — being the person who sets up the offense with the all-important first pass.
"Being a libero is definitely a whole lot of fun. You’re on the ground all the time and you really can’t play volleyball without being able to pass. Being the libero, that’s the thing you do best," she said.
The other benefit she cited is "getting the dig and not letting the other team get a kill feels awesome. Once you can get that ball up and your team can put it away, it’s a pretty good feeling knowing you can help your team out in such a big way."
Day said Wood will bring a "volleyball IQ like none other" to UNK.
"It’s really cool to see the respect she’s gotten from the other coaches in Class A," Day said. "There were many, many times I would look down at the serve receive chart and saw that they had avoided her like the plague. They were serving to anybody but Adi Wood. She would have five or six receptions because they know just how fantastic of a passer ... and defensive person she is.
"We’re going to do some things to tweak that to make sure she gets more repetitions this coming fall."