MVCS Girls Bypassing Tournament for Charity Work

Rachel Seale, center, stretches during an Insanity workout with the rest of her teammates, including her coach, Perry Seale, in a classroom at Mid Vermont Christian School in Quechee, Vt., on Jan. 21, 2014.  With only six girls on the team, Perry Seale will run an Insanity workout with his team at least once a week to keep their muscles in good shape and prevent injuries. (
Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

Rachel Seale, center, stretches during an Insanity workout with the rest of her teammates, including her coach, Perry Seale, in a classroom at Mid Vermont Christian School in Quechee, Vt., on Jan. 21, 2014. With only six girls on the team, Perry Seale will run an Insanity workout with his team at least once a week to keep their muscles in good shape and prevent injuries. ( Valley News - Sarah Priestap)

Quechee — The Vermont Principals Association will release its state girls basketball tournament seeds this morning. At 12-6, the Mid Vermont Christian School might expect to open the tournament at home this week, but the Eagles are going on the road instead.

MVCS informed the VPA last week that it wouldn’t be participating in the Division IV playoffs because most of the girls on the Eagles’ six-player roster have opted to use school vacation week for charity work. Three Mid Vermont girls will spend the week with ongoing Hurricane Sandy rebuilding projects on Long Island, while two others will keep busy with initiatives closer to home.

Mid Vermont Christian coach Perry Seale and his three youngest daughters — senior Phoebe, sophomore Anna and eighth-grader Rachel — did the Sandy trip last year, when the VPA girls basketball tournament didn’t coincide with winter break. The VPA annually flip-flops the girls and boys tourney dates; the Eagles knew the conflict was coming this season and spent most of the campaign discussing it before committing to their causes.

“We went back and forth, and the girls were holding out in some way, saying, ‘Where are we going to land?’ ” Perry Seale said last week. “This is probably the best team we’ve ever had. … We’ve been able to really produce some pretty good wins.

“But as we started talking together as a team, it was really interesting. I encouraged the girls to interact on it, look at the advantages, disadvantages, pros and cons. Much of how I coach is about that opportunity to live out the many examples and challenges of life.”

In a trip organized through Hanover’s Christ Redeemer Church, the Seale family — including Jill, Perry’s wife, and Abby, an MVCS graduate and the oldest of the four Seale girls — will return to Freeport, N.Y., for four days of work helping rebuild homes damaged by Sandy. The storm, which made landfall on Oct. 29, 2012, killed 117 people in the United States and caused $65 billion in damage along the Eastern seaboard, according to a January 2013 report in USA Today.

Most of the Seales made the February vacation trip last year to Freeport, located 20 miles east of Manhattan on Long Island’s south shore, to help more than 20 families with cleanup and reconstruction work, Phoebe Seale said. She’s expecting similar chores this time, including installing insulation and Sheetrock along with finishing work.

“It was actually a hard decision for me, being a senior and having this be my last year to win the state tournament,” she said in a phone interview from somewhere along Interstate 95 in New York on Sunday morning. “We made the decision as a team and a family that doing this trip would be the best thing for us. Making an impact on other people would be a little more important than winning one or two games. It was kind of a group thing.”

The on-court success the Eagles enjoyed during the season kept the debate going.

Perry Seale called this MVCS team “probably the best team we’ve ever had.” Only the Eagles’ 2007-08 unit — with Abby Seale playing the lead role — had a better record, reaching the D-IV semifinals at Barre Auditorium.

As the only senior, much of the decision’s weight fell on Phoebe Seale’s shoulders.

“I was probably the last one to choose to go on the trip, for the reason that I though we had a good chance of or were close to winning (in the tournament),” she said. “It was kind of a hard decision, if I’m being honest. My sisters really wanted to go on the trip, and that meant a lot.”

While the Seales head south, two other Eagles are staying home for their charity work.

Freshman Danielle Goodwin and sophomore Emma Bryan will start the week today with an all-day food drive at the Lebanon Co-op market. On Tuesday, they’ll join a larger group of people from West Lebanon’s Wellspring Church and White River Junction’s Valley Bible Church doing service work for Lebanon’s Listen Center. Other projects will follow during the week, Perry Seale said.

In an ironic note, Phoebe Seale sustained a sprained knee in the Eagles’ season finale on Saturday, a 33-19 loss at Craftsbury, which can expect a top-four seed when today’s pairings are released. Armed with crutches for Sunday’s trip south, the senior said it’s unlikely she would have been able to play any tournament games with the injury.

“It’s kind of a bummer that my leg is hurting,” she added, “but it’s definitely a blessing that we can go and help other people.”

The team unanimously chose to bypass states, a decision aided by the fact the Eagles’ roster was so tiny this year.

“That was one of the things I said to my sisters when I was really passionate about getting into the tournament,” Phoebe Seale said. “If we were on any other team, we would have had to play in the tournament because of all the girls and all of the different opinions. The fact that we were unified and unanimous in our decision to drop out made it feel like the right decision. All of us voted, all of us gave an opinion, and it worked.”

The Mid Vermont boys won’t be affected by the VPA’s scheduling, as their tournament doesn’t begin until next week. Perry Seale said one member of the Eagle boys, Connor Dorr, was scheduled to make the trip to Long Island.

“The thing I’m most proud of is the girls making a hard decision that really doesn’t follow what peer pressure might say,” Perry Seale said. “Choosing to do the right thing in accordance to their consciences, that’s most impressive.

“To see the girls reach this decision, as a coach and a dad, pleases me to no end. I would love to play in the tournament — I’m as competitive as they come — but it pales in comparison because of the life experiences and values they’ll get.”

Greg Fennell can be reached at gfennell@vnews.com or 603-727-3226.