Kayla Moleschi isn't technically classified as a mature student, but maturity is a big factor in her approach to school, rugby and life in general.
The first-year standout on the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns women's rugby team took some time before deciding to start her university career. Blessed with a natural talent and recognized early as one of the country's best rugby players, she had multiple offers to attend school, but for her the timing had to be right.
"The last couple of years I've been working and I did some schooling at home before I came here, but now I know this is what I want to do," says Moleschi, a product of Williams Lake, B.C. "I want to play rugby but I also want to get an education. Education is something I want, not just something I'm doing to play rugby."
She worked four jobs prior to enrolling at the U of L, spending weekends doing clean-up in the local plywood mill in addition to two landscaping jobs and a heavy babysitting load. It almost makes rugby sound easy – and given her performance this season, maybe it has been.
Moleschi was named Canada West Rookie of the Year and a Canada West all-star recently, helping guide the Horns to their sixth consecutive Canada West title and berth in the CIS Championship tournament (Nov. 4-6 in Peterborough, Ont.). A kinesiology student, she has yet to decide what life path she'll take, only that she wants to help the people around her.
"I really want to become someone who can help better other peoples' lives, like that movie Pay it Forward, I really like that whole philosophy," she says. "I just want to be able to help those who are struggling."
She talks about teaching, working with sports teams and helping children.
"I have so many things I want to fall back on but what I want to do, I'm not quite there yet," she says. "Being a teacher would be awesome. I'd be able to help the kids and then still have the summers to pursue my rugby career."
She's been on the national radar for years, having been a part of developmental and touring teams since she was 16 years old. Just recently she was carded as an athlete with the Senior Women's Sevens national team, meaning she will leave the U of L in January for a six-month stint in Victoria to participate in Rugby Canada's centralization training. It presents a barrier to her educational goals but it's one she's planning to tackle.
"I have three options: to take online courses; an independent study course; and an applied studies course," says Moleschi. "I think I'll be doing at least two of those, if not all three. It'll be a little difficult because I won't be in the classroom but I really want this."
She's found the University to be a good fit for her, mainly because of the rugby program and coach Neil Langevin's approach, but also because of the welcoming nature of the city.
"Williams Lake is pretty small but when I came here, I found it's not overwhelming. It's a close-knit community and it reminds me a lot of home," says Moleschi, who lives off campus but just a block from the University. "The people are really nice and have been very welcoming. It's hard to leave your friends and family but you have to do things to better yourself and in turn you're only going to be bettering them. I really owe them a ton of thanks for supporting me and helping me get to this point."
Moleschi, a fullback, has earned comparisons to star alumnus Ashley (neé Patzer) Steacy, the most decorated player in Horns' rugby history. She's flattered by the talk and considers herself lucky to have Steacy as a valuable resource.
"I get the chance to talk to her quite a bit and she'll always answer any questions I have," says Moleschi. "I'm going to get the chance to play with her on the Sevens team too, so I'm pretty excited about that. They have such a great tradition here and I'm proud to contribute to that."
GET THE FACTS
· Moleschi scored five tries during the conference season and was fourth in Canada West scoring with 25 points.
· Horns head coach Neil Langevin describes her play as, "electrifying" and "dynamic". "She's an all-around force, and she's got hands of glue, she catches everything that comes her way."
· The Horns finished fourth at CIS Nationals last year and are looking for their fourth national title.
· Pronghorns' third-year player Kelsey Willoughby, of Lethbridge, was named Canada West Most Valuable Player for the second consecutive year. She was also rookie of the year in 2009.
This story first appeared in the November issue of the Legend. For a look at the Legend in a flipbook format, follow this link.