Tampa's Jack Wood Out to Show He's 'Not Just An Average Division II Player'


Jack Wood has 22 points through five games played.

Jack Wood stood at X on Homewood Field last week, surveying the Adelphi defense. It was a zone, something he and his Tampa teammates had not practiced against.

It took a few minutes for the Spartans to develop a plan, but when they did, it was lights out for the Panthers. Wood led a Tampa offense that poured in 13 goals in a blowout win to help his team improve to 5-0.

The highlight of the game came at the start of the third quarter, when Wood took a pass from Luke McAnaney at X, sprinted forward around the crease and finished a low-angle shot just above the stick of Adelphi goalie Ryan Erler.

Coach Rory Whipple stood incredulous on the Tampa sideline.

“I don’t know how it went in,” he joked later. “It’s pretty amazing to see him. That Adelphi game was one of the best games he had.”

“It was a ridiculous angle,” Wood said.

That day was arguably the best in a young career for Wood, the freshman who led the Spartans with 22 points through five games played. In just that short amount of time, he’s shown the capabilities that might make him a future All-American.

Just four months earlier, Wood was preparing to head to Homewood Field that same weekend with Syracuse (which eventually topped Johns Hopkins). He started the fall season with John Desko’s program and transferred to Tampa in December.

Since the transfer, Wood has established himself as one of the most important offensive players in Division II ... and he’s got three-and-a-half years left.

“It was definitely a transition and one I was ready for,” Wood said. “With my journey, the whole recruiting journey, I have a chip on my shoulder, and I feel like I’m being watched and expected a lot out of. I frickin’ love that and take it in stride.”

The recruiting process was all but done for Wood throughout high school. He had committed to Brown for almost four years, but complications with the admissions office at the university during his senior year of high school made it so that he had to look elsewhere.

Syracuse was quick to reach out to the talented attackman, arraigning a recruiting visit equipped with all the essentials.

“Syracuse brought me to campus and dressed me up in No. 22, and I took pictures,” Wood said. “I was pumped to go there.”

And so Wood made the decision to join the Orange in 2019. He was in awe almost immediately after stepping foot on campus.

Players who he had seen on television just a season prior were lining up on the field next gto him. It was a culture shock for the freshman from Duxbury, Mass.

“Everyone you’re standing next to is just as good as you,” he said. “It was a little overwhelming. I probably could have fit in there, but right when I got there, I could see I wasn’t going to be a huge factor.”

Late in the fall, Wood began thinking about moving on from Syracuse. By December, he decided to enter the transfer portal. He was headed for a new chapter after a few months with one of the most historic programs in college lacrosse.

As soon as his name hit the transfer portal, the emails began filling his inbox. First, there were schools of which he had never heard. Then came the texts from various Division I schools. He had his sights set on staying in Division I until he got a message from Whipple.

“I want you at Tampa. We will win a national championship,” the text read.

The text stopped Wood in his tracks.

“It was two sentences, but it was so to the point,” he said. “It was the first [message] that I got that I actually finished reading.”

Wood made the trip to Florida, where his grandparents own a home, and was sold on Tampa immediately. The beautiful weather certainly didn’t hurt.

It also helped that fellow Syracuse recruit Blake Ulmer was making the transition with him. Ulmer, a highly regarded goalie, transferred from Syracuse to Tampa and arrived shortly before Wood.

Having a familiar teammate already in place made the transition even easier for Wood, who assimilated into the team culture within days. He took a few days to adjust to the heat, but he’s happy to report he can now “wear sweatpants in the morning.”

On the field, Wood has become the key to the Tampa offense. Being a transfer from Division I, he’s already drawn comparisons to former Spartans greats like Andrew Kew and Connor Whipple.

“In Division II, it’s hard to get those guys that can come in and impact the team,” Rory Whipple said. “He did it, Andrew Kew did it, my son did it. Now, we’re going to get Jack to have a lot of success. He should be one of the best attackmen in Division II.”

Wood certainly wants to win a national championship with Tampa, but he’s also hoping to become a four-time All-American like Connor Whipple. He’s well on his way through five games, although an ankle injury kept him out of the past couple.

He’s had to shift his mindset quickly, but he’s thriving in his new home.

“I was at Syracuse and my eyes were humongous being in the Dome will all these kids I just watched on TV a year before,” he said. “Then I come to a place like Tampa, and I’m connecting with players I was told about.

“Now, I have a lot to prove. I know I’m just a freshman, but I feel like I’ve been through a lot and been a lot of places. Winning a national championship is the ultimate goal, but individually I wanted to prove to people that I’m not just an average Division II player.”

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