It was earlier this month when 21-year-old Williams Lake standout Kayla Moleschi stormed onto the international scene with the Canadian senior women’s national sevens team.
But long before making her debut on the world stage and helping Canada to the first ever IRB Challenge Cup, coaches in B.C. were tipping her to be one of the nation’s top rugby prospects.
“Kayla first started playing rugby in Grade 9 at Columneetza Secondary School. In her first game, which was a seven-a-side match, she caught the ball off the opening kickoff and ran 70 metres for a try,” said Mauro Calabrese, Moleschi’s high school coach. “Since then, teams have figured out not to kick the ball to Kayla and to worry every time she has the ball in her hands.”
Much like her rugby debut in secondary school, Moleschi’s first performance at the senior women’s level saw her score two tries to help Canada down Brazil 31-0 in Dubai. Moleschi went on to start in every game at the 2011 IRB Challenge Cup, including the championship final where Canada downed England 26-7.
Kayla’s progression through the B.C. pathway led her to selection for her regional team to compete at the 2007 Provincial Regional Championships. After playing under Calabrase again for the Cariboo U17 Women, she was selected for the B.C. U17 provincial team, which went on to win gold at the national championships in Newfoundland.
B.C. head coach Brad Baker remembers Moleschi making her mark on the national stage.
“Kayla was a dynamic athlete for the BC U17 team when the team won a gold medal in Newfoundland. At this early stage in her rugby career [assistant coach] Rick Pimlott and I knew that she had the explosiveness in her first step to be a game breaker,” Baker said. “Her knowledge of rugby and the ability to use it allowed Kayla to read the game, which allowed her to be in positive situations on the field. For the B.C. U17 team Kayla was a key factor in the squad having success. She was a leader on and off the field.”
Despite competing in a relatively short window for Williams Lake, Moleschi continued to develop by participating at the U19 Women’s Provincial Regional Championships for the Cariboo and by securing her provincial position on the B.C. U19 Women’s team that won silver medals at both the 2008 and 2009 national finals.
Her head coach at the time, Jason Young, recalls, “Kayla was one of our top players in two silver medal performances. She led by example at full back with true speed and athletic ability. She was also one of our best defensive players making great tackles all over the field. Kayla is a true leader by example and a wonderful person to coach. She is one of the hardest workers I have ever coached. She has a great attitude and always has a smile on her face.”
Young was also fortunate to coach Moleschi in his position as head coach for the Canadian Under-20 team.
“Kayla was one of our go-to players in two monumental games against the U.S. The first in Tampa and the second in the final of the NACRA tournament in the Bahamas in 2010. Both games we were victorious by a narrow margin.”
In 2011, Kayla was selected to the inaugural BC U23 team to play in the tier two division at the National Women’s League Finals in Vancouver. B.C. provincial coach and development manager Dave Brown, who had seen Moleschi’s development since her first appearance for the province in 2007 and who coached the team was impressed with her abilities.
“First and foremost, she is a great person,” Brown said. “She comes from a solid family background and has a tremendous work ethic. Anything she does, she does to the best of her ability. This work ethic, coupled with her athletic abilities make her a dynamic player in all aspects of the game. Her speed and ability to change direction almost at full pace make her a very dangerous player in attack. She is also extremely effective at the contact points and in defence with her strong body position and quick footwork. She was perhaps the dominant player at the tournament in her level and everyone in B.C. who has worked with her is absolutely delighted at her inclusion and performance at the Dubai event.”
This past fall, Moleschi excelled for the Lethbridge Pronghorns where she was recognized as Canada West Rookie of the Year and CIS All-Canadian. Moleschi scored two tries in the conference final, lifting the Pronghorns to the 2011 conference championship. The girl from Williams Lake just keeps on improving and impressing.