January 14, 2021 – By NJP
New Jersey is a hotbed of some pretty amazing athletes at the high school level. Football, Baseball, Basketball, Ice Hockey and Soccer are the typical highlighted sports. And of course Girls Volleyball. Lots of D1 commits come from the Garden State and go on to play in college and perhaps professional careers depending on the sport.
Niki Woods falls into the category of “elite” and possesses the athletic abilities to excel in a wide variety of sports.
Woods made an impact since the first time she took the floor at Demarest. She was one of the few freshman starters in the state, especially for a program like Demarest, a perennial state playoff finalist. She has won state sectional championships in both her freshman and sophomore years.
She has been at the very top statistically in her grad year class. And also had an opportunity to win a state championship with her older sister Sydney as her teammate on the court at the same time. Magical!
Niki had some amazing individual performances including 28 digs and 9 kills against Caldwell during the season and then a 19 dig, 10 kills performance in the state sectional final against Jenna Rogers and the Rutherford Bulldogs. Ironically, like Jenna, last years NJ Player of the Year, Niki is planning on continuing her athletic career focusing on a sport other than volleyball.
Anna Morris from Immaculate Heart went the same route last year after winning the state tournament of champions tournament and now focuses on basketball at Northwestern. Jenna is a world class high jumper and will be showing off her record breaking skills at University of Nebraska. For Niki, just take a quick look at the video shown below as she throws the javelin like it was shot out of a cannon.
But volleyball comes natural to Niki. She will once again be an amazing contributor on the hard court. And who knows what this versatile outside can accomplish by the end of her senior year. Maybe 4 state championships? Or 1,000 kills or 1,000 digs? Or just an amazing time with friends and teammates playing a game she loves… She can’t lose.
Here is our interview with Ms. Woods…
Niki, Tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Niki Woods and I attend Northern Valley Demarest High School and live in Demarest. I am a junior, graduating in 2022 and have played two years of volleyball at NVD. I have played volleyball since 7th grade, and I played on a club team for 3 years. I have two supporting parents, and an older sister named Sydney, who I played volleyball with for a year.
How long have you played volleyball and what inspired you to take up volleyball initially?
I have been playing volleyball since 7th grade. I originally took up volleyball because my sister was playing at the high school, and I loved seeing the excitement and passion in the game.
What are your metrics/details? Height, vertical, position, club team, etc. What’s your favorite position to play?
I am 5’10” and I am an Outside Hitter who plays a six rotational position. As much as I love hitting, playing defense is my favorite because of the high intensity. I used to play club volleyball, but I did not play my sophomore or junior year because it conflicts with my other sport, track and field.
Tell us about your Demarest teammates. Who do you expect will be this year’s standout and up and coming players?
Our team this year is projected to be very strong. We have a great senior group who has been committed to getting the team together safely despite the delay of our season. There is a big group of juniors as well, who have been together since we started as Freshman. I believe that our connection and dynamic on the court will be very strong considering almost all of us have played together for years. We have a few very strong freshmen that may become additions to the team and I am very excited to see how they do!
Demarest had an amazing season in 2019 winning a Group 2 sectional state title and finishing the year at 21-5. Tell us about the ride…
Our 2019 was a long ride to say the least. We started with a very young team, with only 3 seniors. It was a different experience, adjusting from our powerhouse group of seniors from 2018. However, Coach Beth was able to teach us how to fight and overcome adversity. It took a while but eventually we were able to work like a well-oiled machine, with a strong dynamic and bond between all of us. After our loss at the County tournament, we began to rebuild and that was the turning point in our season, where we began our road to states. Finishing the season with that state title made all of our adversity, hard work, and commitment all worth it in the end.
What an incredible year for you as a sophomore. You tallied 144 kills, 11 blocks, 30 aces, 35 assists, and 239 digs, numbers typically put up by some of NJ’s best seniors. What are your personal goals for the remainder of your high school career?
I do not necessarily create numerical goals for myself, instead I have other goals for the rest of my career at NVD. I strive to become stronger physically and mentally. I plan on becoming a good leader that the younger players can look up to and talk to. I want to continue to be a team player and measure my values as an athlete.
NJP considers you one of the best volleyball players in the state. Do you plan on playing in college and if so, which ones are you considering?
As much as I love volleyball and will always cherish the memories and lessons I have learned from playing it, I do not plan on continuing volleyball in college. I have found myself committed to becoming a javelin thrower on the national level, and I plan to pursue that passion in college.
Tell us about your club experience.
I played club volleyball for 3 years at Pinnacle. I loved the experience, and it really taught me how to balance different elements of my school and athletic career. My club coaches were the ones who taught me the basics of volleyball, considering I started club before entering high school. I was able to go to tournaments and watch very high-level athletes, which inspired me to push myself to my full potential as a volleyball player.
Who is your support group?
I receive a ton of support from my family and friends, but my biggest supporter is my sister Sydney. She played on Demarest volleyball for four years before me and knows how important it is to know everything you need to succeed. She teaches me about resilience, maturity, and how to be tough in situations that make you feel uncomfortable. Set aside everything she has taught me, she was also the one who inspired me to initially take up volleyball, so I would not be where I am today without her.
What do you plan on studying in college and what is your planned career path?
I am mostly undecided about my studies, but I would love to learn more about business management and economics.
How are you and your family dealing with the current world situation with COVID-19? How did the postponement of the Fall high school season affect your high school team?
This has definitely been a weird and complicated period of our lives, but I have been trying to make the most of it. I have been training hard for both of my sports in the off season, as well as attending meets and competitions. I have been also attending school on a hybrid schedule, so it has been nice to see my classmates and teachers a few times during the week. Volleyball is supposed to start very soon, around the beginning of spring. I hope that everything works out as well as it can in this strange new season. I think it will be nice to get the team together and into a routine, even if the season is not normal. I think this shortened season will be tough for players who are trying to get recruited for college, so I wish the best for all my teammates and others who are figuring that out.
What are your other hobbies or interests?
As a freshman, I began my career in track and field, utilizing my shoulder strength to become a Javelin thrower. I have learned to juggle being committed to the volleyball team, as well as doing outside training for Jav. The two sports complement each other, utilizing hip mobility, leg strength, and shoulder strength. Both sports have taught me the values of commitment, work-ethic, and mental strength when approached with adversity. I would not be the track athlete I am today if I had not played volleyball and learned these qualities.
Is there a teacher or coach who really helped you along the way that you would like to recognize here?
My high school Coach, Beth Powell, has made a significant impact on my athletic career and my mental strength as well. She continues to push me to my full potential and not let me make it easier for myself. As much as there have definitely been ups and downs, the lessons Coach Powell has taught me will benefit me in any path I continue to take in my life.