Meschisi, Villines talk rugby ahead of Atlanta 7s

ATLANTA, Ga. – The Women’s Eagles Sevens are in Marietta, Ga., gearing up for the second leg of the 2013-14 IRB Women’s Sevens World Series, Atlanta 7s. Two of the newest Eagles in Residency – Dana Meschisi and Amelia Villines – talked about their path to playing the newest Olympic sport on the international stage.

When did you start playing rugby?

I had played flag football in high school and I had a lot of penalties for tackling people when I pulled their flag, so I thought it would make sense to play rugby when I got to college.

I played a lot of sports in high school and I wanted to try something different. I saw the rugby team at Stanford was pretty successful and it seemed like a really fun sport. I went out to the first practice and absolutely loved the game, so I stuck with it.

Did you have any rugby idols when you first started playing?

Kathy Flores. She is also a Florida State alumni and she made it to the national team and made national championships when she was at FSU.

I knew of Kimber Rozier and Ryan Carlyle because I played with them on the South team when I first got into playing sevens. A year or two after I played with them they made the national team. I didn’t quite follow them but I knew them.

I really didn’t know anything about rugby when I started playing so I didn’t know anything about the national team. When I started playing at Stanford there were about four All-Americans on the team, so those were my idols at the time, the girls I actually played with. Later on, I started knowing more about the national team but I wouldn’t say I had any idols at that point.

What’s the biggest difference about playing rugby sevens?

It’s definitely a lot faster at the international level, compared to the all-star club level.

I was a back for three of my four years, so I really enjoyed that aspect of 15s: setting up plays and using space. That translates well to sevens. What I really like about sevens is how much space there is and how much time. You’re allowed to move defenders and take advantage of space and use your creativity more than in 15s.

What do you think of rugby sevens being in the Olympics?

What’s cool about it being an Olympic sport is we have a Residency program, so we can play rugby full time. I think it would be different for me if I was playing recreationally with a women’s club team. It would be hard to focus on having a career and doing that, so it’s really nice sevens is my career.

I try not to think too much about the future. I try to think about the day, getting better every day and becoming the best rugby athlete I can be. I don’t think about the Olympics, I just want to become a better teammate and a better player every day. What comes from that comes.

Who do you want to play most on the IRB Women’s Sevens World Series?

I would say New Zealand. That’s the team with the biggest ego, the biggest reputation and I definitely think we have a chance to play against them. I feel like the team has grown a lot more since Dubai, a lot of us hadn’t ever played a national team game before Dubai. I think, with the past month of training together and knowing our teammates, we would have a good shot playing against them.

It’ll be nice to play New Zealand again. We played them in Dubai. I’m hoping we’ll see them again just because they play a wide-spread type of rugby. We’ve made some improvements on our defense. I’d like to see the matchups between our defense and their style of offense.

What do you want young girls to take away from seeing you play?

I guess that you don’t have to look like a monster to be able to play rugby. You can be whatever you want, really. You can still tackle and still look like a normal girl. It’s not as scary as the impression gives off about the sport. That was the impression I had of rugby players before I started playing the sport. They were just big, scary girls. That’s definitely not the case, you just need to be athletic and fit mostly.

What is the best piece of advice anyone has ever given you?

“It’s times like this that either make a true champion step up or make a weak person crumble under pressure. You need to prove who you are.”

“If you work hard at something then you will succeed sooner or later. It might not be immediately but if you just keep working hard then you will succeed.”