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Avonworth still has winning touch

| Sunday, Jan. 1, 2006

The word "streak" tends to make coaches cringe -- losing streaks, especially.

Even the unbeaten kind has a tendency to tamper with teams' emotions.

Streaks, however, are a familiar trend to the Avonworth girls basketball team which has started the season 8-0.

For example, consider Avonworth's 28-game winning streak that was snapped last season with a loss to Westmont Hilltop in the second round of the PIAA playoffs. For the Antelopes, the run marked the first time in school history the girls team cruised through the regular season and the WPIAL tournament with an unblemished record.

But that's in the past. This is a new team with different goals and a new season, Avonworth coach Bob Schulz said.

"I told the girls (at the beginning of this season) that you have to be very lucky, opportunistic and injury-free to go 28-0," Schulz said. "That's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."

In Schulz's 11 years as coach, there are a few streaks he would like to see this season, such as winning 20-plus games. Avonworth won its section the past three consecutive seasons and advanced to the Class AA WPIAL semifinals the past two. It fell in the PIAA playoffs to the tournament's runner-up the past two years.

Winning has become so commonplace to the girls basketball program that it's difficult to draw a decent crowd for an average game.

"Most of the school doesn't come to our games," senior guard Heather Swedish said. "But they'll come if they think we are going to lose."

In eight games this season, Avonworth has outscored its opponents by 232 points, despite the target that has been placed on its back. The Antelopes are among five undefeated girls teams in the WPIAL, with Greensburg Central Catholic (9-0) being the only other Class AA team. Only Bishop Canevin (6-0) is undefeated among the boys teams.

"When you are successful, everyone comes in and tries to play their best game against you," Schulz said. "That's hard for the girls to deal with."

Avonworth battled through its toughest game of the season Dec. 22 when it defeated Our Lady of Sacred Heart, 57-53, for its second section win. In a 77-36 decision against West Allegheny, Avonworth contained West Allegheny senior center Andrea Walker, an Ohio State recruit.

"We set high demands and try to meet them," Schulz said. "This team has great character, and they have a great work ethic. They take pride in the tradition of the program, and they don't want to be the ones to not keep it alive."

Avonworth is led by junior forward Taylor Gallupe, who was averaging a team-best 18.5 points per game late last month. Swedish led with six assists per game, and sophomore forward Morgan Locher averaged a team-high nine rebounds and ranked second in scoring with 13 points.

"Our main goal is to win the section," Gallupe said. "We don't intend to go undefeated. It would be nice, but that's not our focus right now."

Additional Information:

Undefeated teams as of Dec. 31

Girls

Class AAAA

Oakland Catholic 6-0

New Castle 10-0

Mt. Lebanon 10-0

Class AA

Greensburg C.C. 9-0

Avonworth 8-0

Boys

Class AA

Bishop Canevin 6-0

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