Born with hearing loss, some sports and activities were uncomfortable for Ellie Villnow, until she was introduced to rugby. After experiencing her first practice, her presence on the rugby pitch felt like second nature. She joined a cooperative girls’ team for multiple high schools in a nearby school district and began to thrive, but when COVID-19 setbacks cancelled her senior fall season for her home team Villnow was faced with a challenge. Refusing to give up, Ellie made the decision to join a different high school team and made the 4.5-hour round-trip drive four times a week to practices and games. “I was fantastically obsessed with rugby,” said Ellie. Ellie began her rugby career with the SPASH Panther Girls Rugby program in Stevens Point, Wisconsin in 2018. Her raw talent led her to be named a starter for the Wisconsin Badgers Selects Girls Rugby team that same year and through the 2021 season.
Ellie landed on the Wisconsin High School Women’s All-Stars in from 2019 to 2021 and was twice named most valuable player at the Wisconsin High School Girls Rugby State Championship in 2018 and 2019. “She understands the two things every athlete can control—attitude and effort. On a daily basis, she works hard to become a better rugby player while encouraging others to do the same. Ellie also leads by example on and off the field and does this with a smile on her face. She is the rare high school player that works hard away from practice, on her own, to build strength and stamina. This has propelled her into being one of the most dominant players in the state,” said SPASH Panthers Rugby Club Head Coach, Tim Wandtke. Aside from rugby, Ellie was dynamic in her extracurricular activities.
As a student at Amherst High School in Amherst, Wisconsin, she was involved in the National Honor Society, the River Valley Riders 4-H club, art club, Spanish club, Peace Lutheran Church youth group, and lettered in varsity softball and volleyball. In softball, she earned all-conference honors in 2019. She also was an avid participant in equine competitions and loves volunteering with animals.
Villnow will attend Lindenwood University and continue her rugby career with the Lions. She will major in psychology with the intent of pursuing a master’s degree. Her career goals include becoming a counselor or therapist for children with disabilities. On the pitch, she is committed to staying healthy during her collegiate career and would love the opportunity to serve her team in a leadership capacity. She is interested in advancing her play to the next level and would like to explore coaching opportunities in the future. “Ellie is a hardworking individual on and off the field and a positive contributor to the University and program. She is committed to better herself and the teammates around her. She’s a hard running carrier and excellent in support. We are excited to see Ellie continue to progress with us throughout her time here at Lindenwood,” said Billy Nicholas, Lindenwood University Women’s Rugby Head Coach.