LOS ANGELES --
The two finalists spent the short trip engaged in small talk about their backgrounds, careers and college rivalries. They discovered they had a lot in common, yet never imagined they would have even more just a few hours later.
For only the second time in its 34-year history, the annual Honda-Broderick Award crowned co-winners Monday afternoon at the J.D. Morgan Center on the campus of UCLA.
Moore, a junior forward for the UConn basketball team, and Hodge, a senior outside hitter for the Penn State volleyball team, shared the honor designating the Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year. They were chosen over a third finalist, Iowa State senior track and field star
Seated side-by-side during the announcement, Moore and Hodge shot each other quizzical looks when the winner was declared.
"We were both a little confused at first," Moore said. "It was like, 'What? Did we both win?' I think the expressions on our faces said it all. But I loved it. I think it's special to be able to share it with somebody else and for both of us to be recognized."
The only other time co-winners were crowned was in 1984 when Southern California basketball standout
"It kind of threw me for a loop when he said both of our names," Hodge said. "It was definitely like a 'Wow' moment and unexpected, but still very exciting. It's a very meaningful award, and I think a number of people would love to be in our position."
It seemed only fitting Moore and Hodge would be jointly honored because their careers have taken such similar paths. They have both contributed to remarkable team winning streaks, displayed on-court dominance and accumulated too many prestigious awards to count.
Moore, a Jefferson City, Mo., native who grew up in Lawrenceville, Ga., recently helped UConn capture its second straight NCAA title with an undefeated season. The three-time first-team All-American was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player as the Huskies extended their NCAA-record winning streak to 78 games over two seasons. Moore averaged 18.9 points and 8.3 rebounds and became the first junior in program history to score 2,000 points.
Moore is the third UConn athlete to receive the Honda-Broderick Cup, following in the basketball tradition of Rebecca Lobo (1995) and Jennifer Rizzotti (1996).
"I am honored because this is about celebrating women's sports, not just about basketball," said Moore, a sports marketing and media major with a 3.85 grade-point average. "It's a celebration of how far we have come, and to all the people who have supported women's athletics. For me to be able to represent that is awesome. I got goosebumps just watching the highlights."
Hodge, a native of the Virgin Islands who grew up in Durham, N.C., is the first Penn State athlete to receive the award. The four-time first-team All-American led Penn State to its third straight NCAA title and its second straight undefeated season in 2009.
Hodge left Penn State with a 142-5 record, including 102 straight wins to end her career. She averaged 4.67 kills per set as a senior, and is one of only two Penn State players to reach the 2,000 career kill mark with 2,142 total.
Hodge is representing the U.S. national team in the Pan-American Cup this week, and went to great lengths to make the ceremony. She competed in a match in Tijuana, Mexico, on Sunday night and was immediately returning after the ceremony to play in a match Monday night.
"I don't think I could have asked for more in my Penn State career," said Hodge, who will play professionally in Italy this winter. "Coming in as a freshman, the goal is always to win a national championship and be a part of a great team. Just to think of the legacy we have left for Penn State is unreal."
Louisiana Tech senior track athlete
Concordia University (Minn.) senior volleyball setter
The irony of receiving her award at UCLA was not lost on Moore. The campus is home to the Bruins men's basketball team that won 88 straight games under the late
Possessing a deep appreciation for sports history, Moore toured UCLA's Athletic Hall of Fame prior to the ceremony and recorded video on her iPhone.
She took particular interest in the area dedicated to Wooden, who died earlier this month at the age of 99.
Moore captured the Wooden Award, which is given to college basketball's top male and female players, in 2009 and was a finalist this year.
"I look up to everything that he has done and the person that he was and what he stood for," Moore said. "I feel like what he really strove for are the same things I strive for. I've always been a fan."