One of the definitions of a great athlete is that they make teammates better. Check. Another is they overcome whatever setbacks may block their road to success. Check. And a third part of the equation – maybe the most important – is they win championships. Check.
During her four years playing volleyball at Father Gabriel Richard, India Woods checked off all the boxes of greatness and earned herself a scholarship to continue playing the sport she loves at the Division 1 level.
Woods, 17, the daughter of Teresa and Bernard, was a middle hitter for the Fighting Irish and helped lead the green and white to a state title during her junior season. When asked what her greatest memory was playing for Richard it wasn’t surprising that it involved the team.
We are the Champions!!
With Woods helping lead the way, the Richard volleyball team spiked its way to a state championship in 2015. Not only did they win it all, the Fighting Irish never lost a game – winning an incredible 42 straight games.
“My whole season as a junior was amazing,” says Woods, who played varsity for three seasons. “That season was the season that every volleyball player dreams of and getting a chance to live that and be a part of something that will forever be a big part of my school’s history is absolutely amazing.”
Woods said the reason for their success came down to determination and sacrifice.
“The connection we had as a team that year was astonishing,” she says. “I have never had so much trust in a group of individuals before being on that team. We all had each other’s backs on and off the court and that was an amazing feeling.
“And our coaching staff was phenomenal. Coach Mayssa and Coach Ashley both pushed us to be the best that we could be on and off the court and they helped us through a lot of difficult games and they never gave up on us and believed that we could win even if we weren’t 100 percent sure we could win ourselves.”
Reaching for the Stars
Woods was a leader on the volleyball court right away at Richard. She was a team captain for her freshman team even though she was hoping to play varsity even as a ninth-grader.
“I was told that I would never make varsity my freshman year but I worked really hard and came back my sophomore year for tryouts and made varsity,” she says.
After playing key roles on the team both as a sophomore and junior, Woods became a dominant player her senior season. She was named to the All-Catholic League team as a 12th grader despite seeing limited action because of her injury.
“I was one of the team captains my senior year which was a very high honor because coming off an undefeated season the year before and being given the title as a captain to try to get close to that again was a high honor that my coach trusted the other seniors and I with carrying the team,” she said.
Woods first became interested in volleyball by first watching the sport.
“A family friend played and I really liked watching her play,” she said. “So I decided to check it out.”
And was it love at first spike?
“I can’t really explain what it is but I feel at peace when I’m playing,” she says. “Other sports are fun but volleyball is the one sport that I fell in love with and never got tired of.”
Woods started playing club volleyball in fifth grade.
“It has been a great experience,” she says. “I have played for three different clubs and they all brought different things to my game. They all helped in their own way and without tips from coaches from any of those teams I wouldn’t be the player or person that I am today.”
Mayssa Cook coached Woods in both high school and club volleyball.
“What makes India so special is her work ethic and personality,” she said of her star pupil. “She has a presence on the court that makes everyone around her better and is very coachable and a great teammate.”
Woods suffered a knee injury in June 2016 during a club practice for Michigan Elite.
“It was a rough time for me because of how much I love the game and how much it hurt me to not be able to play or even work out for that matter,” she said. “Thankfully, I didn’t need surgery. I needed to do physical therapy to get my leg strength back. After several long months at physical therapy I was able to come back for the tail end of my senior season and play for my high school one last time.”
The hardest part wasn’t the injury but having to sit on the sidelines.
“It was hard to watch my team play being that I was a captain my senior year,” she said. “But it really showed me how much I actually love the game. It showed me that I would do anything and everything to get back on the court again.
“It also taught me that you never know when your last game or last practice could be, so you must go on the court every time and play like it could be you last time playing.”
The Next Level
Sometimes, you just know. And Woods knew right away that Hampton University would be her home for the next four years because when she stepped on the campus she already felt at home.
“I always wanted to go to college far from home and live in a warm climate for once,” she said. “When a family friend who is an alum from Hampton told me to look at the school my freshman year I took a look and fell in love. It has been my dream school ever since.
“The campus is beautiful and the atmosphere feels like home, I couldn’t imagine going to college anywhere else.”
Woods, who has a 3.5 grade-point average at FGRHS, is a five-year MBA major but plans on concentrating in sports marketing or sports management.