Inspirational Coach Has Undersized Warriors Battling for Championships

Kirsten Moore Leads Top-Ranked Westmont Back to Nationals for 10th Straight Year

Santa Barbara, California, March 11, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The small but mighty Westmont women’s basketball team, with an average height of 5-foot-5, continues to outhustle, outsmart and out-heart its opponents. The top-ranked Warriors won their fifth straight Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) Tournament Championship on March 7, defeating then-No. 4 The Master’s 76-67. The victory catapulted Westmont to No. 1 in the final NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Final Top 25 Poll. Westmont had already won the GSAC Regular Season Championship, and they begin their quest for a national title at the 32-team NAIA National Championships March 18-24 in Billings, Montana. No. 1 Westmont opens the tournament against No. 8 seed MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) on Thursday, March 19, in the Naismith Bracket.

Head Coach Kirsten Moore will take the team to its 13th trip to nationals in the last 14 years. She led the team to its first National Championship in 2013, less than a year after the unexpected death of her husband, Alex, who passed away in May 2012 after suffering complications from surgery. The couple’s daughter Alexis, named after her late father, was born in June 2012. While many questioned whether Moore would return to coaching following the loss of her husband, she never considered otherwise. “This is how God uses me to serve others,” she said.

A Musial Award from the St. Louis Sports Commission in November 2013 recognized Moore’s story of tragedy turned to triumph. The award became all the sweeter because her late husband’s family, who lived in the St. Louis area, attended the presentation of the All That’s Right in Sports Award.

The United States Basketball Writers Association honored Moore in April 2014 with the Pat Summitt Most Courageous Award, which stands for inspiration, hope and an undeniable spirit to persevere.

Moore, who led the Warriors to a National Runner-Up in 2018, has brought the program to new heights, including three quarterfinals, five final eights, and six final 16s.

However, this year’s team has been winning without the on-court presence of sophomore 6-footer Sydney Brown, last season’s leading rebounder and second leading scorer, who has been sidelined after suffering a preseason injury. That left eight healthy players on the roster, including co-captains Maud Ranger (5’7”) and Lauren Tsuneishi (5’0”).

“We’re small and quick, and we can shoot it,” Moore says.

The team has been led in scoring by sophomores Iyree Jarrett (5’5”), averaging 14.1 points per game, and Stefanie Berberabe (5’3”), averaging 11.9 points per game.

 “We can really trust our preparation for the long haul,” Moore says. “All year in the fourth quarter, we just stay with it. We don’t let ourselves ever think that we’re tired. Fatigue really doesn’t affect us. It’s when we step up and become our best.

“I’m so proud of these ladies for believing in themselves all year. Early on we faced many unknowns and had to overcome adversity, but this group has continued to keep a fighting spirit, believing all they could accomplish this year. I’m just so proud of them.”

Ranger, from Paris, France, tallied 20 points and 12 rebounds to record her 11th double-double of the season for the Warriors in her final game at Westmont’s Murchison Gym on March 7.

“This team has been something different for me this year—such a different support system,” Ranger said. “They’re just such fighters, and they fought for me, we fought for one another. I just love them so much it brought me to tears.”

“Her leadership, her steady mentality to continue to trust and believe no matter what, and the fact that she thrives and loves it when her back is up against the wall—that is when she is at her best,” Moore says of Ranger. “Our team follows that and wants to step up and rise up with her. She hit so many big shots and was tough on the boards, as she has been all year. It’s fitting that she goes out of here with a double-double and the opportunity to cut down the nets again.”

Moore, the 2013 NAIA Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year, was honored as the NAIA Coach of Character last year. Earlier this month, she was named the GSAC Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year, her sixth such award in her 15-year tenure at Westmont.

With the spirit of resilience, grit and determination the Warriors exhibited this year, it’s fitting that they had the opportunity to cut down the nets on their home court once again.


Kirsten Moore, head coach of the Westmont women's basketball team, cuts the nets following the Warriors fifth straight Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament Championship on March 7 in Murchison Gym.  The Westmont women's basketball team celebrates following the Warriors fifth straight Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament Championship on March 7 in Murchison Gym.

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