In March, Kirsten Moore led the Westmont College women’s basketball program to its first-ever NAIA national championship. For the coach, the title was an inspiring culmination to a year marked by tragedy, tears, blessings, and finally, triumph.
Kirsten and her husband, Alex, were expecting their first child in the spring of 2012. In May of that year, Alex underwent surgery as a treatment for Crohn’s disease. By all indications, the procedure was a success. Alex even felt comfortable sending Kirsten home to get some rest. But a few hours later, Kirsten received a life-altering phone call from the hospital in the middle of the night. There were complications from the surgery and Alex had passed away. He was 31. Kirsten’s world was crushed. She was suddenly a widow and soon-to-be single mom. Coaching the Westmont basketball team was the furthest thing from her mind, or was it? While preparing for Alex’s memorial service, Kirsten noticed two Post-it notes stuck to the wall in his office. She recognized them as Bible verses in Alex’s handwriting. The first read, “Encourage the oppressed, defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow.” The other read, “Be strong and courageous and do the work, do not be afraid or discouraged for the Lord God, my God, is with you.” Kirsten turned to her mother and said, “These are Alex’s final words to me.”
Kirsten used those verses as inspiration to continue on as a mother and coach. Seven weeks after Alex’s death, she gave birth to their child and named her Alexis. Weeks later, she addressed her team. She would continue as their coach. Westmont guard Larissa Hensley told the Los Angeles Times, “I could never coach again right after all that. How do you get right back into it? Wouldn’t you need to take a year off?” Kirsten did not need a year or even a day. She did need help though, and the Westmont community rallied around her and baby Alexis. Athletic department wives DeAnna Odell and Jill Wolf served as babysitters during the day while Kirsten completed office work. Faculty wife Nicole Knecht watched Alexis during practices. Jen Shinn, a longtime friend, pinch-hit during games that Alexis’ two sets of grandparents could not attend. Others in the community prepared meals and helped whenever possible. Sometimes, Alexis was just a part of the team. Film sessions were interrupted with childhood milestones. One session in particular was halted and replaced with cheers and tears from players as Alexis crawled for the first time. “When this child grows up,” Shinn told the Los Angeles Times, “she’s going to know who her village is.” With a solid support system in place, Kirsten led Westmont through a historic season. Westmont went 24-3 in the regular season and reeled off five consecutive tournament wins to claim the national title.
Upon learning of her Musial Awards honor, Kirsten issued a statement through the Westmont sports information department. She gave the credit to her late husband and the impact he continues to have on her life. “Alex was a motivation for trying to do things the right way and do the work. His God was with us this year. It was the fuel that motivated this team and me personally. We kept doing the work this year. Not just surviving, but overcoming so much, and ultimately finding victory.”