CORPUS CHRISTI – Texas A&M - Corpus Christi has had Division I athletics for only 15 years, but the Islanders have already made history in the Southland Conference, which started in 1963. No coach in any sport had ever won Southland Conference Coach of the Year more than seven times in a row, until Islanders Director of Tennis Steve Moore, won the award for his eighth straight time this year, making history for the conference and for Texas A&M - Corpus Christi.
"I am blessed to be a part of this special Islanders culture that we have built together," Moore said. "The model of having our former team captains stay to coach as assistants brings such a special synergy to our staff. The Islanders' philosophy of team first, extreme work ethic, and the disciplined athletic lifestyle is modeled so well by our former captains. The camaraderie and family atmosphere between the coaches is priceless. All these assistant coaches were the hardest working players and now simply transfer that to being the hardest-working coaches. I truly love our staff and they are absolutely family to me for life."
Past and present Islanders are constantly reaching out to Moore and consistently following along with the Islanders Tennis programs. The Islanders are one big family. Even if an Islander has exhausted their eligibility, or if they are just stepping onto the courts at the Thomas J. Henry Tennis Center for the first time, Moore ensures them they are part of this special culture and Islanders family. It's no surprise that Moore's former student-athletes stay in touch with him and continue to lead the disciplined lifestyle he has taught them.
"We have been very blessed to have incredibly high-character players," Moore said. "I have come to take for granted that they are going to care about the team, and compete hard every match. Year in and year out these high-character players choose to be a true team and that makes for a very special culture. This job of teaching and uplifting young people to be other centered teammates, mentally tough, to embrace extreme work ethic, has to be one of the most fulfilling jobs in the world."
Former team captain and 2011 Southland Player of the Year Laurent Montoisy (2008-2011) has been one of the Islanders biggest fans since he graduated in 2011. Montoisy, a native of Belgium, stays in touch with Moore on a weekly basis and helps the Islanders coaching staff any way he can.
"Coach Moore is one of the most special people I've ever met," Montoisy said. "When you play for Coach Moore you play FOR Coach Moore. We wanted to make him proud. I've never met someone that works so hard or cares so much about others. He was a master of building that culture of hard work and family, it was simply amazing.
"We were a family and we played so hard for him and each other. We outworked people and always competed hard as a true team. It came natural for us to want to be those things for Coach Moore because that's exactly who he is in his life. He represents all of those good things that we fight for. I'll be an Islander the rest of my life. The concepts Coach Moore taught me, I'll never forget. The Islanders were truly special. I always felt we had an edge because he was our coach."
Another former team captain and First Team All-Southland pick Jose Zunino (2006-2009) echoed Montoisy's praise for Moore and his time with the Islanders. Zunino, who is ranked fourth in career men's singles wins, had such an outstanding career, that he returned to Corpus Christi to assist Moore and Associate Head Coach Goncalo Figueiredo for the 2011 and 2012 seasons.
"My experience as an Islander and playing for Coach Moore was the most fulfilling experience I could ever imagine," Zunino said. "Our team was all about being a true team that is exceptional at hard work and competing. I always felt we were better conditioned and fought harder than anyone we played, but the way he made the team a family was simply priceless. He was the leader in that because he cared about each of us as if we were his own family and still does.
"It is amazing that year after year Coach Moore gets the players to believe in that, and that was always what our team was about. I loved my time with Coach Moore so much. It was such an amazing team to be a part of that I wanted to stay and coach with him, because he was such a special person. As a coach I really learned what it takes to run a team like he does, and the hours he worked were amazing. He never stopped working to make sure every part of the team was done the right way. I can't believe how much hard work went in behind the scenes to run the team at such a high level and be nationally ranked every year."
Moore took over the women's team in 2008 and has improved the team each year since he took over. In 2009, the team made the Southland Conference tournament for the first time in history. The following year, the Islanders finished fifth in the Southland before improving to a fourth-place finish in 2011. Moore then led the 2012 team to a third-place finish and to the semifinals of the conference tournament. The Islanders once again rose up in 2013 and had a breakout year, reaching No. 60 in the national rankings and making the finals of the Southland tournament. This season, the Islanders made history, clinching their first Southland regular-season and tournament championship, while earning their first berth into the NCAA Championships.
Sandra Burges (2011-2014), a former team captain and the all-time singles leader in Islanders women's tennis history had an outstanding four-year career under Moore. Burges always played each point with intensity and passion, a characteristic that Moore looks for in his players.
"I felt like I was part of something special because I played for the Islanders," Burges said. "There was no team that I ever saw that was a family the way the Islanders were. I would hear my opponents tell me that all the time. Everyone knew the Islanders were all about hard work, fighting harder than anyone else and being a true team, that was the reputation and that was exactly how it was. I was always proud of that. I felt like I played on the greatest team I could have ever wished for because of what a true team we were.
"Every day he taught us more and more about being that way. He must have sent me a hundred emails and a hundred videos over the years about these concepts. He had coached at the highest level and every team we played he had beaten before so we always believed we could win with him as our coach. We listened to him and believed in him. We played hard for him and for each other with all of our hearts. The greatest part of the team was the long trips we went on, because we got to be together so much. We really loved each other on the team. He always said, 'stop watching these sports movies, and go make your own movie.' I felt like we did. These were the most special four years ever for me."
Moore earned his eighth consecutive men's coach of the year award in April after leading the men's team to their seventh straight Southland Conference regular-season title. Under his leadership the men's team only allowed five points in Southland play this season, for a total season record of 35-5. In addition, the men's team has lost just one regular-season Southland match in the last eight years since Moore returned to take over the men's team in 2007. Moore was previously tied with Aaron Fox of UTSA in indoor track and field and Sonny Jolly of Lamar in outdoor track and field at seven straight awards.
"I'm very happy for Coach Moore, but not surprised to see him get this honor," Zunino said. "A&M - Corpus Christi is very lucky to have such a great leader and coach, but even more importantly one of the best people I have ever met."
Moore was named the ITA Coach of the Year in Texas in 2013 by his peers, an award that includes every NCAA Division I coach in Texas. He was also elected to serve on the NCAA National Tennis Committee, and was voted as the ITA Chairman for NCAA Division I schools in the state of Texas.
"I can honestly say I go to bed every night and wake up every morning highly motivated to work with these great character student-athletes and the best assistants a coach could dream of," Moore added. "None of this would be possible without the tremendous support we receive from our athletic department, our athletic administration, and the most special group of donors and fans in the country."
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• 2014 Men's and Women's Southland Conference Regular Season and Tournament Champions
• One of 39 universities in NCAA Division I to have both men's and women's tennis teams in the NCAA Championships
• Both teams top 10 NCAA Division I national attendance
• One of 34 universities in NCAA Division I to have both men's and women's tennis teams ranked in the ITA national rankings
• Moore was named the 2013 ITA NCAA Division I Coach of the Year in Texas
• Both teams earned above a 3.0 GPA
• Seven straight Southland Conference Regular-Season Titles
• Six NCAA Tournament Appearances
• 36-2 in Southland Conference Since 2008
• NCAA DI National Rankings (Top 70 Eight Straight Years)
• #60 NCAA Division I National Ranking in 2013
• 55-15 Over Last Three Seasons
• 2014 Southland Conference Regular Season and Tournament Champions
• 2014 NCAA Tournament Appearance