Perhaps this name is not familiar to those who avidly follow football since it coincides with the volleyball season, but as the men tackled in Schoellkopf, another battle was being fought in Newman Arena.
In the 1999 season, the women’s volleyball team finished 1-7 in league play and at the very bottom of the standings. In the Ivy League Tournament, Cornell was dropped 0-3 and 0-3 in its first two matches to Princeton and Dartmouth, respectively.
In 2000, the war the women waged was one to dispel the unanimous belief within the Ivies that any match against Cornell would be an easy one. Moore, the senior captain and starting middle blocker, worked to ensure that this fate that plagued the team in 1999 would not return for a curtain call.
In one of the biggest understatements of the year, the team, with Moore’s guidance, broke out of last season’s slump. With an overall record of 20-9,and a League mark of 4-3 that put them third in the standings, Cornell was successfully bringing the pieces necessary to capture close matches.
Despite it’s remarkable record, the league simply refused to take the team seriously. Going into the Ivy Tournament during the last weekend of the season, many doubted Cornell’s abilities to perform when everything was on the line, which was understandable considering the team’s finish in the previous season.
Determined to prove it belonged in the Ivy rafters, rather than crawling in the respective gutters, the team needed four games to eliminate Brown in the first round of the tournament.
The following afternoon, Cornell faced Penn, the second seeded team, in yet another match that it was considered the underdog. Four games later, the crew from East Hill had subdued a vicious Quaker squad.
Later that night, the six starters headed on to the court, the first time the Carnellian and white uniform had appeared in the championship match since 1993. On the adjacent half of the court, Princeton loomed, eager to claim its second Ivy title in as many years.
Unfortunately for the Red, its fairy tale season ended a page too early.
After being up two games to one over the Tigers, Cornell began to slow up just enough to open a doorway for Princeton, which it took on its way to becoming Ivy Champs.
A rather surprising thing happened that night during the awards ceremony.
The Most Valuable Player award often goes to one of the victors, and Princeton had last year’s MVP and Ivy Player of the Year in Sabrina King. But the name inscribed on that trophy was not hers. Nor was it one of her teammate’s.
Instead senior middle blocker Moore was called up to receive the hardware.
“A lot of people were surprised I was named MVP, not because I did not deserve it, but because it usually goes to a player on the winning team,” Moore pointed out.
“People don’t get those awards if you are on the seventh place team. You have to have a strong group of players around you. [The award] says that I am a good player, and that I stand out at times, but I would not be able to do it if my team was not at the level they were at,” she reflected.
Moore was not finished garnering accolades for her outstanding season. She was a unanimous pick for the All-Ivy First Team, and was named the league’s Player of the Year.
As spectacular as this season was for Moore and her team, just as impressive is the road she took to reach this conclusion of her collegiate career.
Moore started playing volleyball in eighth grade. Her true love was basketball, but she was too short to compete in college.
“I was definitely [a diamond in the rough], and wasn’t a big player my freshman year or my sophomore year [in high school]. I was a kind of a sleeper of sorts,” she said, reaclling her earlier volleyball days. While playing on her club team, she received a few Division I offers, but the ones that offered her scholarships “didn’t even come close to what Cornell could offer … academically,” she noted.
Entering her freshman year on East Hill, Moore was prepared to face adversity.
“I was definitely expecting it to be very difficult, because that was what some of my high school friends said. They said you were a star in highschool, but this is the big leagues. So be prepared to sit on the bench and wait a while,” she sighed.
“My freshman year was definitely really hard for me. It was by far the most difficult year I have had here in terms of adjusting to being in a different part of the country and the team had a lot of problems with the [former] coach. Nearly half of the players I had met on my recruiting trip had quit, so I was walking into a different team chemistry than I had thought was there,” Moore continued, pondering the move from New Mexico.
Compounding these issues was the fact that although she had been recruited as an outside hitter, her coach decided to move her to middle blocker.
“All the positions in volleyball are very specialized and they are all very different. It may seem to the casual observer that there isn’t a big difference, but there is,” Moore explained.
“My coach at the time decided to move me to middle blocker, I had never played that before and I had just gone from the high school level to the college level. That was incredibly frustrating for me. That in itself, and us losing, all came together as incredible frustration for the team and me. That was what the first two years were about.”
Head coach Christie Jackson, an assistant coach during Moore’s first two years at Cornell, explained what changes occurred after she assumed the head coaching role.
“When I first met Robin, she was really skinny and didn’t have much muscle. Those first two seasons were pretty tough for her,” Jackson recollected.
“Then we kind of got rid of the X’s and O’s and other little foot work rules, and just let her play a little bit and use her athleticism. That was when she really came alive because she didn’t have to think about every little step she was taking. She could just play the game her way.”
In her junior year, Moore began to stake her claim as the squad’s premier offensive threat. Opponents would double- and triple-team her to take her out of contention.
Jackson considered the 1999 season.
“[In 1999], Robin did really well. We relied on her and she had a very big role. This year, we could spread the offense out, and she wasn’t getting 30 kill games anymore because we were setting other people,” she recollected.
“I think a selfish player would really have a problem with that because her stats weren’t as high, but she really cared that we were winning.”
Although the team finished in the Ancient Eight cellar in her junior year, Moore was named to the All-Ivy First Team. During that stint, she compiled many of the 1,190 kills she has over the four years, which set a new school record. She is the career leader with a 3.11 kills per game average. Moore holds the season record for kills per game average with 4.18 and her resume boosts a 32-kill game — another school record.
During her junior year, Moore went abroad in the spring to Spain. A Spanish major in the College of Arts and Sciences, she was fortunate to have the opportunity to leave for an entire semester.
“It was the most important part of my time here at Cornell,” Moore said of the experience. “It was the pinnacle of my Spanish career, and it was important that I go, as a student and as a person.”
There was a catch, however, which she proceeded to explain.
“Part of the deal is that I would come back in the summer and lift. It wasn’t like ‘Oh, I think I will come in today,’ it was every single day for two and a half to three hours,” Moore said. “The first couple of weeks I was definitely hurting, but the whole time I thought ‘Oh this
is worth it, this is worth it’.”
During her time abroad and during the summer, Moore worked on mastering the things she needed to be a good leader.
“She worked really hard to bring the team together, it wasn’t something that just happened, she made a conscious effort for that to happen,” sophomore Mary Margaret Moore said of her sister’s role in instrumenting the fusion of the players into a team.
Heading into the start of last season, the team thought it would be among the top four squads in the league.
“We knew it was going to be really tight, and at the beginning, we thought we were one of the four teams that could [win the Ivy Championship]. Everyone expected to come in and just walk all over us like they had done in the past, but Coach Jackson kept telling us we were good. ‘Show everyone and show yourselves, what you really are,'” Robin Moore commented on the team’s mentality.
As the 2000 season wore on, the Red got better and better, and it became more evident that the team could engineer a championship drive.
“Being in the finals was more than Robin could ever imagine. We got a great recruiting class in, and I remember her saying ‘Oh, if I could only skip a year,’ because we thought we were a year away from the Ivy League Championship,” Jackson recalled. “As we got closer and closer, she thought ‘Oh my gosh, we could do it this year.'”
And in that final match of her career, Moore injured her ankle and had to come out of the game. After being attend to by the trainer, she headed right back out to play the game she knows best. She later learned she had suffered a third degree sprain — despite her valor, the team would still succumb one step short of a title.
Of the second place finish, Moore was disappointed initially, but came to her senses when she realized the renaissance the team had experienced.
“I am so proud of being a part of this program; staying with it and bring it up to the level where it is now. I couldn’t be prouder,” she said.
“She just kept getting better and better, and if [only] I had another year with her…” Jackson bemoaned.
When asked to describe Moore, Jackson asserted that “anything I could say would be an underestimation. I could call her amazing, but that would underestimate her,” lauded the coach.
Mary Margaret Moore affirmed Jackson’s praise, concluding “I didn’t really realize the full effects of what it meant to play with my sister until she wasn’t around for the spring. I really miss playing with her and I really miss having her around because of the kind of leader she was for us and the great athletic abilityshe had, and just how she pushed the team because that was how she was. I am just really proud of her,” she ended.
Moore, when asked if she had any words of wisdom for the returning players, was unusually quiet for a minute before thoughtfully responding.
“I feel my tenure as captain is done with the team. I think it is time for those developing leaders to step up, and I have confidence in them. I would not want to leave any words because I think I have done that with my actions over the past four years, and that to me is more powerful than any words.”
In this athlete’s case, actions most definitely speak louder than words.
Archived article by Katherine Granish