By: Monty Mosher
Julie Moore may not have been pre-ordained to be a Dalhousie Tigers volleyball player, but it's hard to imagine her anywhere else.
Moore, an 18-year-old rookie from Halifax, is a second-generation Dalhousie player. Her mother, Karen, won, a national championship with the Tigers in 1982 and went on to play in the 1984 Olympics for Canada. She was also the school's athletic director until retirement.
But the younger Moore has been plotting her own course on the court for years, starting with an extended run with Nova Scotia's provincial program.
She won three straight NSSAF titles at Citadel High before joining Rick Scott's Tigers in time for the 2017-18 season. She represented her province in the Canada Games and spent some time training with the Canadian national junior team.
She's been no ordinary rookie. She leads the conference in kills with 108 as the five-time defending champion Tigers have broken away to an 8-1 start.
The second semester for volleyball opens this weekend with the Tigers visiting Moncton. They played a post-Christmas tournament in Edmonton, posting a 2-1 record.
The trip didn't do Moore any favours. She's been battling a cold and some jet-lag this week, but plans to be ready when called this weekend.
Moore never got any pressure to join the Tigers. Mom wasn't the only varsity athlete in the household. Her father, John, played hockey at Mount Allison and had a brief stint in Europe after graduation.
"The fact that she (Karen) played at Dalhousie and enjoyed her experience and won a national championship definitely influenced my decision," Moore said.
Moore played hockey and basketball in her younger days. But when it came time to narrow the focus, there was no doubt volleyball was the choice.
"It was the teammates and the coaches," she said, reflecting on the pull volleyball had in her life. "Growing up, I would so excited to go the gym. I couldn't wait for practice to start."
Moore, an outside hitter, had no expectations stepping into the black and gold, where chasing banners is the custom.
This year had no choice but to be different with four seniors – Marisa Mota, Anna Dunn-Suen, Abby Czenze and Amy Appleby – all done at the end of the last season. All were cornerstones of a conference dynasty.
Somebody had to fill the vacancies and the five-foot-11 Moore, a commerce student, has taken every opportunity.
"I knew I was going to be working very hard and there would be a lot of time management," she said. "I knew some of the rookies coming in, and Coach Scott had coached my club the season before, so I knew what a great coach he was.
"Coming in with them winning five seasons in a row, obviously there are feelings of pressure. But I didn't really know what to expect in the level of competition."
More games, more workouts, more travel. That's just the reality. "Mentally and physically, everyone is just so much stronger," Moore said.
Moore didn't know where she fit in. But Scott has given her the confidence to take a leading role. Catherine Callaghan, Victoria Turcot and Hannah Wilkie, all from Nova Scotia and all Canada Games vets, are the other rookies working their way into the rotation.
The rest of the league is eager to knock the Tigers from their pedestal. "I'd say definitely we have a target on our back," Moore said. "The other teams are coming out really strong against us and we have a lot of work ahead of us."
Scott figured Moore would bring something special to the Tigers and it might be sooner than later.
"But I'm definitely pleasantly surprised with how she's played her first three months and made the transition," said Scott. "She's done a lot of really good things. There are definitely areas for her to continue to work on and get better, but she's played very well for a first-year athlete at the university level."
He knew Moore and the other rookies would have to grow into contributing roles quickly. He was always confident that would happen.
"We knew we would need some of that with the departure of some of our veterans," he said.
As for Moore's bloodlines, Scott knows they are pretty good. But that's where it ends.
"Julie's Julie," said Scott. "She's making her own name for herself."