By ANNA PITINGOLO, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Sierra Moore has had her share of ups and downs in her collegiate career. In the previous four seasons, she's only played in two, but she's back on the court this year and ready to closeout her career on a high.
Her Penn State career started when she transferred from Duke after her freshman season in 2013. Due to NCAA transfer rules, she was required to sit out the following year.
When she was able to suit up for the blue and white for the first time in 2014-2015, she didn't disappoint. She was the only Lady Lion to start all 30 games, led the team in assists (116), free throws made (73), was a team tri-captain; and also earned honorable mention All-Big Ten.
But right before the start of her redshirt junior season in 2015, she suffered a torn ACL in practice, which would cause her to miss the entire year. But, despite missing two years so close to each other, Moore remains focused on the positives that came of it.
"Sitting out for two years has been really hard but also, if you think back to it, I really can take away from those two years," the now-redshirt senior said. "Just getting a different side of the game and more of a coaching perspective is really helpful for me because I can see some things that you would not necessarily see when you're on the court playing."
Moore has wasted no time getting back into her groove this season. She already has 30 rebounds on the year and is averaging five a game; she's also averaging 7.8 points. Head coach Coquese Washington is happy to have Moore back on both sides of the ball.
"She brings a lot of intensity, she brings a lot of speed to the court and she just plays so hard, so having her back in the rotation is really an added benefit," Washington said. "She's a big defender for us; she's able to guard the big guards and the small forwards. She has the experience and she plays with a lot of confidence and that confidence rubs off on her teammates so I'm really, really thrilled to have her back in uniform this year."
With a team that is stacked with guards, Moore has been coming off the bench in every game. But that hasn't slowed down her production or lessened her role on the team.
"Her being a spark for us off the bench is big," Washington said. "As a coach, it's a wonderful luxury when you can look down your bench and go 'okay, let me put this kid in because I know she's going to have an impact immediately' and that's what she's done for us so far this year. Once she takes the floor, the energy, the intensity, the speed of the game improves immediately."
Her teammates see that change, too. Senior Peyton Whitted knows that she and the rest of the team can count on Moore to come off the bench and change the pace and flow of the game.
"Sierra will automatically bring a lot of energy so that's something that she does when she comes on the floor," Whitted said. "She makes an impact in some sort of way, whether it's defensively, rebounding or just scoring out in transition, I think that she's a player that we can definitely count on off the bench to come in and make an immediate impact."
Moore wasn't the only Lady Lion nursing an ACL injury last season. Then-freshman Amari Carter also tore her ACL in the preseason, forcing her to miss her first year. The two formed a close bond on the sideline, with the veteran Moore helping Carter focus on recovering.
"We were each others cheerleaders last year, just trying to push through rehab and things like that," Carter said. "She has a lot of confidence in her game and in herself and that gave me more confidence in myself and my knee."
Confidence is certainly something that Moore doesn't lack, and it seems everyone has taken notice. Washington couldn't say it enough, and even with her injury, Moore's confidence hasn't wavered.
"What's interesting with Sierra is, sometimes when kids come off an ACL injury they're a little bit more tentative, but Sierra is Sierra. She still plays with the same ferocity that she [has always] played with," Washington said. "When I think about her game, she has a mean, aggressive game and she plays with that same aggressiveness, she plays with that same intensity and confidence that she did before she got hurt."
Moore and the Lady Lions will look to keep that confidence and her high level of play to finish her senior year strong.