Nate Serevi presents Mele Tausinga with the MVP trophy. /// Photo: Summit Lights Photography
If you feel like you’ve been watching Melelea Tausinga play for the better half of a decade, then you’re not mistaken. In 2010, the then-11-year-old inaugurated her rugby career by helping Sacramento to the High School National Championship title. While the Amazons spent the subsequent six years attempting to recreate those heights, Mele developed into the emblem of Sacramento’s physical, creative and confident game. It’s only fitting then that the graduating senior ends her high school career with a second national championship and MVP trophy.
Up until a few years ago, middle schoolers could receive waivers to play above their age grade. Sacramento embraced that opportunity to expose younger players to higher-level play, and that’s how Mele was able to sample the national championships so young.
“I always used to watch my dad play and I would be the only little girl up and down the field cheering him on,” Mele recalled her early memories of rugby.
Her dad, David, is a Sacramento legend, and he’s been Mele’s source of wisdom since she first touched a rugby ball. David has been involved with the Amazons for years but was promoted to head coach this season, after longtime leader Sefesi Green moved out of state for work.
Mele supplemented her rugby education with many select-side appearances, ranging from the Northern California all-stars, to 7s elite programs like Atlantis and Rhinos Rugby Academy, to USA Rugby’s Stars & Stripes. By her freshman year, she was already directing Sacramento’s attack from flyhalf. She had the awareness and skill to set her teammates up for rumbling runs, and also had the footwork and fend to be a ball-in-hand weapon. And contact – Mele can stand a ballcarrier up in the tackle.
The years waged on and the Amazons couldn’t snap Fallbrook’s five-year title run at nationals. But 2016 felt special. The personnel was clicking, the off-field support was there, and the 2010 team’s alumni were ready to end their time with the Amazons on a high.
“Any other season, our team was unorganized, but now you can see we picked up,” Mele said.
“The competition this year was what I expected: solid, hard and fast, on offense and defense,” the flyhalf continued. “The previous years, we lacked on our defense and fitness. So with most of us upping it, it helped us a whole lot!”
When it came time to perform at nationals, Mele was at the center of the three victories (read more about Sacramento’s run at the championship).
Coach Tausinga credited the flyhalf’s “great vision and decision-making and being a great leader and captain [while] directing traffic” in guiding the team to the championship.
“She did a great job today and has been valuable to the team the whole season,” he said.
“It feels good to carry this [win] on to the next group of kids because if we had lost this year, I don’t know what would have happened,” David said.
“It’s unbelievable, to be honest,” Mele said of the MVP award. “I didn’t think I was going to receive this.”
But for everyone else watching these past seven years, the MVP title is an apt end to Mele’s high school rugby career. Mele accepted a softball scholarship to UN Reno, and so her rugby for the next four years will be contained to friendlies with the Amazons’ senior team during school breaks. It’s a bittersweet day for the rugby community, which wishes her the best in Nevada but also hopes that this next chapter is merely a hiatus from rugby.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Veronica Stephen has been tangentially connected to rugby for years, as family members involved with NorCal’s Danville Oaks brought the sport into her purview. Upon high school graduation, Stephen committed to Utah State University and presumed the move would end her relationship with rugby, as she focused her energies on pursuing a technical writing degree. Stephen embarked on her LDS mission to Mexico for 18 months, and as she learned more about herself, was compelled to play the sport that had previously intimidated her. When she resumed her studies in fall 2015, Stephen joined the Aggies and started learning the game from the second row. After a full collegiate season on and off the pitch, Stephen is officially hooked on the sport. She joins The Breakdown this summer after two semesters writing for the Utah Statesman, the school’s student newspaper, and we are grateful to have her youthful insight reflected on the site. Welcome aboard, Veronica!
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