Although the Stony Brook women’s volleyball team made it to the playoffs in its first year with the Colonial — now Coastal — Athletic Association (CAA), it got in by the skin of its teeth. The Seawolves went 10-16 last year and finished with a 5-11 record in conference play, just enough to secure the last playoff spot. Had it not been for the performance of outside hitter Kali Moore, Stony Brook would have likely missed the playoffs entirely.
Moore led the Seawolves in points, was the fifth-leading scorer in the CAA and led all rookies in the conference in kills. Moore’s standout year earned her the 2022 CAA Rookie of the Year award and a spot on the 2022 All-CAA Second Team.
Moore was destined for dominance on the volleyball court, as the sport has run in her family for a long time.
“My mom probably would not survive if I didn’t play volleyball,” Moore said in an interview with The Statesman. “My mom played at Stony Brook and my uncle was a pro player. He played in high school, played in college and went pro. It was always something that my mom wanted [me and my sisters] to do.”
Moore’s mom, Cristina, is perhaps her biggest role model. Aside from playing herself, Moore’s mother was also her coach, advisor and biggest fan.
“She helped me through my entire recruitment process. She was my biggest supporter. She came to each visit, every phone call I was on. She talks to me for hours after every single game. She comes to each one, too.”
With volleyball being a staple of Moore’s household, she knew from a young age that she wanted it to be part of her future.
“I knew I wanted to be a collegiate player when I was 12,” Moore said. “I knew volleyball was going to be part of my whole life.”
Moore mapped out a career in volleyball with a tremendous tenure at Park Slope Collegiate in Brooklyn, N.Y. While playing all four years on her high school’s varsity girl’s volleyball team, she became the first student-athlete in school history to receive a scholarship offer from an NCAA Division I school.
Volleyball is not a popular sport in Brooklyn, making it all the more unlikely that a Division I school would offer her.
“It was really surreal,” Moore said. “Growing up in New York City, there wasn’t a big volleyball community. Being able to get a D-I offer was super cool because I didn’t have a lot of examples around me.”
On top of playing high school and club volleyball, Moore took the court for the New York City Juniors, a non-profit organization that teaches volleyball to girls across the five boroughs. The experience helped Moore embrace the other aspects that come with sports.
“I met lifelong friends there,” Moore said. “You just fall in love with each other. I think there are so many other things that come with volleyball other than just the game.”
Despite being an accomplished volleyball player early in her career, Moore’s recruitment process was complicated. The COVID-19 pandemic prevented college coaches from watching her high school games and scouting her in person.
However, Moore lucked out. Stony Brook’s coaches had seen her play in her early high school days, which helped Moore’s chances to be recruited. After leaving a positive impression, Moore kept in contact with Stony Brook via email. She had a positive experience while visiting the school and quickly made up her mind.
Moore was so excited about the thought of playing at Stony Brook that it followed her everywhere she went.
“I remembered going to this concert and I was just thinking about Stony Brook,” Moore said. “All I could think of was Stony Brook. I was like, ‘I have to, I want to go there.’ It was a good decision.”
Stony Brook was Moore’s only Division I offer. She had other offers on the table from schools like Adelphi University (Division II) and Emory University (Division III), but she was dead-set on Stony Brook.
Moore stumbled through her first couple of weeks playing with the Seawolves. Overwhelmed by the new environment and competition level, she began to struggle with some of the basics of playing volleyball.
Moore continued to grapple with her emotions during the season. On days when she failed to meet her personal expectations, she let her anger and frustration get the best of her.
“Even though I might have been doing good on the court, it was kind of tough for me in practice … to speak to myself nicely when I wasn’t doing as well,” Moore said. “I attribute that to being in a new environment and not knowing what’s going on.”
However, the people around Moore helped her get to where she needed to be.
“It was the team that I was with, they supported me through the entire thing,” Moore said. “I spent so much time and put in a lot of effort with the coaches. The girls made the experience 10 times better.”
Later in the season, Moore took off. Her freshman year wound up being one of the greatest in program history. Her 373.5 points and 326 kills led the team by a wide margin. She ranked fifth in the CAA in both categories. She racked up over 20 kills in five games and posted 11 double-doubles over the course of her rookie year.
Moore’s favorite moment of her rookie season was the team’s final regular season match. In a must-win match against Elon to make the playoffs, Stony Brook found itself down two sets to nothing before winning the final three sets, earning the final spot in the tournament.
The Seawolves still needed some help from around the league, and they got it — making the moment even more special for Moore and her team.
“We all went off the court super excited,” Moore said. “The only way we would’ve made the playoffs is if [North Carolina A&T] lost and they ended up losing. Tyreek [McIntosh] told us all. We were cheering and screaming and crying. I remembered running off the court and giving my mom the biggest hug.”
Going into her sophomore season, Moore was named to the 2023 All-CAA Preseason Team. However, she does not care about getting recognition from the conference anymore. She simply wants to do anything that she can to help Stony Brook win the 2023 CAA volleyball tournament.
For Moore, a successful 2023 season will come down to building team chemistry.
“It starts with bonding as a team because we have six new freshmen and that’s half of the team basically,” Moore said. “We need to get to know them, bond and really connect on a different level so we can have trust on the court.”
Off the court, Moore is still finding her way at Stony Brook. She has not formally declared a major, but she plans on majoring in psychology with the hopes of getting a master’s degree in education. Moore has not thought about playing volleyball professionally, though she does know that she will be playing it in some way shape or form for the rest of her life.
When it comes to the social aspect of college, Moore has a message for anyone interested:
“If you’re at Stony Brook, say hi to me because I want more friends.”
Cameron Takmil contributed reporting.