MSC girls take ‘business trip’ to Disney World

MSC girls take ‘business trip’ to Disney World

The Mount Saint Charles Academy girls’ basketball team poses for a picture with Mickey Mouse, left, before taking the court for its KSA Events tournament opener against Jean-Vanier Catholique of Ontario, Canada. The members of the team are, in front from left, Emily D’Abrosca, Julia Laquerre, Christina Pearl, Shea Kelliher, Amelia Fadden, and Kaitlyn D’Abrosca; in middle, Kaitlyn Koller, Skylar O’Connell, Katie Lynch, Courtney O’Connor, Meghan Valentine, Haley Leclerc, and head coach Ray Leveille; in back, assistant coach Tom Shiel.
Mount takes fourth place at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex’s KSA Events holiday tourney

WOONSOCKET – While most of the area’s high school basketball teams spent their winter vacations busing to towns like Smithfield, Cumberland, and Coventry to compete in invitational tournaments, the Mount Saint Charles girls’ basketball team took the road less traveled.

Actually, the Mounties didn’t take any roads. They took a flight to Orlando, Fla., the morning after Christmas, to compete in the 2016 KSA Events Girls’ Holiday Basketball Tournament that was held from Dec. 27-30 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, located in the heart of Disney World.

Competing in the tournament’s Pink Bracelet division against teams from Fernandina Beach High, Fla.; Pelham Memorial High, N.Y.; Jean-Vanier Catholique, Ontario, Canada; The Holton-Arms School, Maryland; Highland Park High, Ill.,; Gardiner Area High, Maine; and Brentwood High, N.Y., the Mounties ended up taking fourth place by posting a 1-2 record.

And of course, this “business trip” wasn’t all about basketball. Enjoying 80-degree temperatures for most of their trip, the Mounties got to enjoy their stay in Disney World and visit such places as Hollywood Studios, Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, and the Epcot Center.

“The trip was very nice,” Mount head coach Ray Leveille said on Monday afternoon, less than 48 hours after his team returned from Florida. “The girls had a great time. It was packed down there, but I think they got to all the parks.”

As for the action, the Mounties began the tournament on the morning of Tuesday, Dec. 27, by posting a 41-17 victory over Jean-Vanier. After a day off from the hardwood, they returned to action last Thursday night for a semifinal-round game against Fernandina Beach that they lost, 59-29, and in their third-place game last Friday at noon, they suffered a 50-26 defeat to Highland Park.

“The first team we played wasn’t that strong,” said Leveille. “They were from Ontario, Canada, and their season for women’s basketball is in the fall, so they actually had finished up about two weeks prior (to the tournament). And the coach said that her two best players, her two guards, couldn’t make the trip because they were playing for a national team.

“(Fernandina Beach) was decent and had a couple of really good players. And (Highland Park) was good. They had some size – a couple of girls were 6-2, 6-3 – and they moved the ball well.”

All in all, it was a great experience for a team that didn’t lose any of its players from last season’s squad that went 16-1 to share the Division III regular-season title with Middletown, reached the D-III finals (only to lose to Tolman, 38-30), and appeared in the 16-team state tournament.

Knowing he was going to basically have the same team for the next two seasons, Leveille first came up with the idea of bringing his team to Florida a month before last season began, and after he selected his senior-less varsity team during the final week of November, he shared his plans for a 2016 trip to Disney World.

“I started asking parents that if we could get everyone on board and if everyone was willing, if they would want to make this trip the following year – knowing that they had almost a full year to plan out and save (up) for the trip,” added Leveille. “I then took it to the (school’s) administration team and talked to them about some of the positive things that could come out of a trip like this and the experiences that the kids could have.”

Once the trip got approved, Leveille found himself planning a six-day trip for an 18-person caravan that included himself, assistant coach Tom Shiel, his 12 players, and the parents of the D’Abrosca sisters, Emily and Kaitlyn, and Courtney O’Connor.

“(The trip) will be something for them to be able to remember fondly back on from their high school careers,” said Leveille.

Now that the team is back in school, it’s also returning to its Division II-North schedule this week. Thanks to the RIIL’s realignment during the offseason, the Mounties joined Tolman, Middletown, Classical, Pilgrim, Narragansett, and Central in making the move from D-III to the state’s middle division, and it’s a move that Leveille welcomed with open arms.

“Obviously, it’s nice to be able to play better competition,” he said. “Going into each night, knowing that you’re probably going to win by 15 or 20 points, is no fun. We’d rather be playing in closer games, and it’s been good so far. We’ve played some tougher teams and we’re currently 2-1.”

His senior captains, guards Julia Laquerre and Emily D’Abrosca, forward Shea Kelliher, and center Skylar O’Connell, have been valuable contributors since they were sophomores for Leveille, who took over the girls’ team that winter after heading the boys’ program, and junior center Kaitlyn Koller, senior forward/guard Amelia Fadden, and O’Connor, a junior forward, are also key three-year players. Two of MSC’s top sophomores are forward/guard Katie Lynch, who is averaging 8.3 points per game, and guard Kaitlyn D’Abrosca.

The top offensive threat of the bunch is Laquerre, who was a First-Team All-Division pick last season and a Second-Team All-Division selection as a sophomore. The talented point guard, who scored 13 points in the win over Jean-Vanier and was named the Mounties’ MVP of the tourney, is averaging an even 20 points per game in Mount’s three league contests – a 53-42 loss to Johnston on Dec. 15, a 48-42 win over Woonsocket on Dec. 19, and a 47-44 victory over Tolman on Dec. 22.

Unfortunately for the Mounties, they are minus the services of Emily D’Abrosca, who has been sidelined with a sprained right elbow that she suffered in the victory over Woonsocket. Leveille hopes she will be able to return to action by next week, but in the meantime, Fadden will fill in for her in the starting lineup.

The Mounties kicked off the 2017 portion of their league schedule on Tuesday when they hosted Juanita Sanchez. On Friday at 7 p.m., they will also entertain Scituate, which like the Cavaliers, entered this week with a 3-0 league record.

“Those games will kind of go a long way to see where we’re at in Division II,” said Leveille. “We’d like to get back to the playoffs this season and hopefully make some noise there. We definitely have the toughness to do it, and Julie gives us a chance on any given night to almost beat anybody because of her ability. Right now, we’re just looking for some other people to step up and carry the scoring load a little bit.”