After receiving and reviewing a record number of 30 college scholarship applications for the 17 2021-22 college scholarships on offer, the US Rugby Foundation is pleased to announce this year’s scholarship recipients.
Kaler Family Rugby Scholarships
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. 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. 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.
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At scrum half, Erron Hubbard thrives under the responsibility asked of him on the pitch. The ultimate team player, Hubbard finds comfort in being able to tune his thoughts to the game, knowing his teammates trust him to help them succeed. Rugby has given him the tools to become a better teammate and commit 110% effort to every game. Hubbard began his rugby career as a freshman in high school for Freedom Preparatory Academy.
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Meg Votta Memorial Scholarship
Amidst what is going on around the field, Kalisi Po’oi finds solace in the critical thinking required to be a great player and teammate. The lessons she has learned from rugby have shaped how she carries herself in everything she does. Kalisi began playing rugby during her sophomore year of high school for the Kahuku High School Girls Rugby team. Her athleticism and natural knack for the game earned her selection to the team’s travel side that competed with other programs from the outer islands and the mainland. During her senior year, she served as the forwards team captain and played in both 7s and 15s matches. A Hawaii native, Po’oi graduated from Kahuku High School on the island of Oahu. When Kalisi wasn’t playing rugby, she was working hard in the classroom and highly involved with her church and family. Kalisi’s talents have earned her the opportunity to attend Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona, where she will play for the Antelopes. She will major in nursing with intentions of obtaining registered nurse licensure upon graduation. Her ultimate career goal is to become a doctor.
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For Luke Misleh, rugby was the teacher, and he was the student. Not only did Luke learn the game, but also discipline, endurance, and brotherhood. Bruises, cuts, and heavy hits came and went, but he was always determined to give his all for the teammates beside him. Through his experience with challenges presented on the rugby pitch, he has translated these lessons to guide him through life. Luke played for Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. During his tenure with Archbishop Moeller, he helped lead his team to a second-place finish in the state of Ohio and earned a no. 7 ranking by the Goff Rugby Report for Division I high school boys’ programs. In the summer of 2021, he was invited to participate in the Eagle Impact Rugby Academy National Invitational Tournament in Elkhart, Indiana. He will continue his rugby career at Ohio State University and will major in psychology.
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Terry O’Reilly Memorial Scholarship
Luke Malanga describes rugby as both an end and a means to his life, cherishing the positive influences of fraternity and athletic challenges the sport has to offer. “Workouts on off days, practice in the rain, and student run training in the off season, have brought me close to my teammates and strengthened a bond which changed my life on and off the pitch. In this way have I progressed through the past three years: slowly and with much struggle, but linked arm and arm to my teammates,” said Malanga. Luke played for the Summit Academy Rams in Fredericksburg, Virginia for three seasons in various capacities from tight head prop, inside center, and fly-half. He served as the team leader for backs in his senior season. He will continue his athletic and academic endeavors at the University of Virginia. While playing for the Cavaliers, he will major in engineering, with an emphasis in biomedical engineering. At the collegiate level of competition, Luke looks forward to developing lifelong relationships with his teammates and the rugby community.
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Richard A. Donelli Memorial Scholarship
Emmett “Ash” Mallach
Having played rugby for seven years while simultaneously coaching for four, Emmet Ashton “Ash” Mallach enjoys being both a student and a teacher of the game. As a rugby sponge, he looks forward to practices, because it allows him to communicate with his coaches and teammates and to improve both athletically and personally. Through the sport, he has developed a great sense of pride and a community that inspires him to give his very best. Mallach began at the youth level for Pelham Middle School. As he advanced to the high school level, he was named a starter for the Pelham Memorial High School junior varsity team and earned reps in varsity games. As a senior, he led the varsity side as team captain and helped Pelham Rugby earn a No. 39 spot in the high school boys’ rugby program rankings by the Goff Rugby Report. In addition, he led the team in tries and was named Pelham Rugby MVP. Ash will attend the University of Buffalo and play for the Bulls. He will major in physical therapy and exercise science with intentions of becoming a Doctor of Physical Therapy.
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William V. Campbell Scholarship
Thomas Curran’s very first rugby game was a rude awakening, but one bloody nose and a lesson learned was all it took for him to find the confidence he didn’t even know he had. After getting run over, he was determined to improve his tackling skills and form. He sought out more experienced players on his team for help and began to see a change in not only his play, but in himself. He was first introduced to rugby in 2017, having played with the North Shore Trailblazers, a middle school club 7s team. Once he advanced to high school, Curran found himself on the varsity 15s side at fly-half for Malden Catholic High School. He also played with the North Shore Colts and Mystic River Rugby Club 7s teams. His one-of-a-kind work ethic has earned him the opportunity to continue his academic and rugby pursuits at his dream school, the University of Notre Dame. While playing for the Fighting Irish, he is determined to uphold dean’s list honors during all four years of college. He has ambitions of pursuing law school upon completion of his undergraduate degree and is interested in practicing immigration law.
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Kevin Higgins College Scholarship
Alyssa Cunningham’s rugby roots helped boost her confidence on and off the field. When Alyssa was diagnosed with dyslexia in middle school, she turned to rugby. “When I struggled in school, athletics became my outlet. I excelled at rugby, and it gave me the confidence to accept my strengths and weaknesses,” said Cunningham. Alyssa was a four-year member of the Catholic Memorial High School girl’s rugby team and also played for the Midwest High School Thunderbird Select Side team. She was twice named a USA High School All-American and in her senior season she racked up numerous honors including, an invite to the USA Rugby flyhalf development camp and the U20 National Team camp in Colorado, as well as being named to the USA Rugby High School U18 National Team Pool. She will continue her athletic and academic endeavors at Sacred Heart University.
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Born to a British mother and an American father, it was never a doubt Amelia Dellamano would take interest in the sport of rugby. Dellamano was introduced to the sport at a young age while living in England, but after moving stateside she assumed that her days on the pitch would be over. From 2018 to 2021, Amelia tirelessly recruited new members and pioneered the girls high school league in her region of Chicago. She served as both the co-founder and team captain for the South Suburban Rugby Club girls’ team and helped grow the club to become the largest youth rugby organization in the state of Illinois. As a multi-sport athlete, Amelia also excelled in swimming and water polo. Amelia will attend Florida State University, where she will play for the Seminoles and major in communication sciences and disorders.
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They say the safest place is in the eye of the storm, but for Austin Felt that place was in the middle of the scrum. After experiencing the tragic loss of a friend during his teenage years, being present on the pitch brought Austin a sense of peace that could not be replicated. Felt began his rugby career with the Flagstaff Cobra Fists at the U14 level. His love for the game drove him, literally, to compete with several teams in Arizona. After his local rugby program had to combine with another program, Felt made the round-trip commute from Flagstaff to Phoenix to play for the Phoenix Firebirds on Saturdays. Throughout his youth career, he transitioned positions from prop to flanker and his level of play excelled, earning him team honors and a spot on the Arizona Bobcats select side. Austin will be attending the University of Arizona and continuing his rugby career for the Wildcats at the Division I level.
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Brett Krenke’s dedication to conditioning not only made him a stronger player on the pitch, but also in everything that he does. The mental toughness and work ethic that he has developed from the sport has transcended into all avenues of his life, giving him the confidence to excel. Krenke was a member of the Middleton Area Rugby Club from 2018-2021 helping his team reach three state championship games. He was also named to the Badger selects in 2018, 2019, and 2021, representing the best of Wisconsin’s young ruggers in competitive games throughout the country. Brett’s rugby technique helped him excel on the football field for Edgewood High School of the Sacred Heart, earning him Wisconsin Football Coaches Association All-Region Team and Associated Press All-State Team honors as a defensive lineman for the 2020 season. Brett will take his academic and athletic talents to Indiana University.
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What pulled Devon Roosna closer to the sport of rugby was the culture. His experiences on the pitch made him realize that on the playing field everyone is equal. The physical and mental growth he has experienced from rugby have inspired him to apply these philosophies into his everyday life, hoping to bring the world together. As a three-year starter and a one-time team captain for Cardinal Gibbons, he helped his team reach three state title games and won one state championship. He was also a member of the Florida Rugby Dragons representing the best of Florida’s high school talent in tournaments across the country. Devon will continue his athletic and academic career at the University of Louisville. He will major in business management and minor in sports administration, with career aspirations of becoming a general manager in the sports world.
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After years of participating in football, Elijah Palmer strived for more and was eager to gain an edge on other competitors. He felt stuck in a performance rut, until he found rugby. After he was introduced to the game, Elijah hit his stride and became a force on the pitch. Not only did his coordination, speed, and strength finally click, but he also felt a sense of gratitude for how rugby seemed to impact every avenue of his life. Elijah played for the Tempe Rugby Club and appeared on the pitch in several matches for the Eagle Impact Rugby Academy U16 and U18 teams. With the Eagle Impact Rugby Academy, Palmer helped his team win the North American Invitational 7s in 2019 and 2020 and the Los Angeles 7s championship title in 2020. He also earned a roster spot on the Canada BC tour with EIRA in 2019 and the Spain Invitational tour in 2021. In 2021, he was named a U-18 All-American. His well-rounded nature and athletic distinction have earned him a scholarship to continue his academic and athletic career at the University of Arizona.
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A graduate of Valley Center High School in the greater San Diego area, Israel Martinez had the opportunity to climb the rugby ranks with the San Diego Mustangs Youth Rugby Club. As a freshman with the Mustangs, Israel immediately earned a starting front row position on the U16 side that advanced to win the U16 SoCal championship. During the spring 2021 season, he played loose head prop and led the team to the Tier 2 National Championship. Martinez will attend American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts.
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“Playing rugby has led to opportunities to travel and has also taught me how being disciplined and always trying my best can lead to bigger and better things in life”, said Jakai Bailey. He was introduced to rugby during his sophomore year of high school. After his first season, he participated in a two-day combine in Washington, D.C. and as a result, he traveled to California in January 2020 to play in his first tournament with the Rhinos Rugby Academy. He was invited back in February 2020 to play with the Rhinos once again, eventually leading to an opportunity to go on tour to South Africa, Portugal, and Orlando, Florida. Unfortunately, the tour was cancelled due to COVID-19. In the fall of 2020, Bailey rebounded and participated in another combine hosted by the MLR’s Old Glory DC. He was one of 25 players selected to the inaugural Old Glory U19 Academy, which helped him further develop his rugby skills and gave him the opportunity to learn from seasoned athletes and coaches. Jakai will continue his academic and athletic endeavors at Alderson Broaddus University in Philippi, West Virginia. While playing for the Battlers, he will major in sports management with a minor in marketing.
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Rugby has been the moral compass guiding Micky O’Leary. By experiencing the respect and accountability the game demands, Micky began to demand those same qualities out of those in his own life and the returns were two-fold. In 2012, O’Leary began his rugby career with the North Bay Wildcats Rugby Club. He also played for the NorCal Jr. Pelicans All Stars, the San Francisco Golden Gate Rugby Club, and the Bay Area Rugby Academy Sharks. O’Leary graduated with honors from Novato High School in the spring of 2021. He will continue his academic and athletic career at the University of San Diego. His rugby goals include becoming the most dominant player he can be and being accountable to his teammates.
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Growing up in a rugby family, Philip Tracey spent most of his early years around the pitch and at other rugby related events. Once he began playing, he had a host of mentors ready to help him develop his skills and understanding of the game. What he didn’t realize at the time was that he would also be developing a new outlook on life. Tracey played for several clubs in the Dayton, Ohio region, including the Dayton Area Rugby Club, Northern Force High School Rugby Club, and the Dayton High School Rugby Club Fall 7s. Most notability, Phil was involved in the Eagle Impact Rugby Academy from 2017 to 2021. He appeared at three winter camps, was an Ireland and Canada tour invitee on numerous occasions, and competed in regional cup tournaments in Denver, Colorado and St. Louis, Missouri. In addition to his skills on the field, Tracey is referee L1-C3 certified and has received his level 1 coaching certificate. He will continue his academic and athletic career at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri.
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