Winning streaks are common in all sports. Some span years, such as the UCLA Bruins men's basketball team that won 88 consecutive games from 1971 to 1974. Others only weeks, with the Denver Broncos' four game tear to open the 2013 NFL season coming to mind.
But it's hard to compare any streak, past or present, to the run the Northwestern Lehigh girls' cross country team has been on over the last few years.
The Lady Tigers went 7-0 in an eight-team Colonial League meet at Palmerton last week, extending their undefeated streak to 72-0 since the beginning of the 2011 season and giving coach Chris Stitzel his 306th win coaching the girls.
After going 3-0 in a seven-team CL meet yesterday at Palisades, the Lady Tigers improved to 23-0 this year, further cementing their legacy as one of the most successful teams in league history.
"We're just blessed. Kids are coming out and working hard for us and that's all we ask," Stitzel said. "Everything has just fallen into place for us.
"We're getting talented kids to come out for the team and they're giving 100% every workout."
Stitzel, in his 15th season as Northwestern's head coach, has maximized that talent, producing five state-medalists (Lindsay Kerr - 2008, 4th place & 2009, 1st place; Katie Hallingstad - 2009, 21st place; Tyler Stelmack - 2011, 12th place; Haley Yost - 2012, 25th place) and earning Colonial League Girls Cross Country Coach of the Year honors five times since the beginning of the 2005 season.
In 2012, Northwestern captured the Colonial League title for the second consecutive year, winning back-to-back regular season and championship meet titles. The Lady Tigers also secured the District 11 Class AA title and placed ninth at the PIAA AA State Championships in Hershey last season.
Stitzel's success certainly hasn't been limited to the girls team, as the boys have gone 21-2 this year and 45-4 since the start of last season, finishing second in the Colonial League Championships in 2012, only nine points behind an undefeated Bangor team.
The Tigers rebounded nicely after coming up short at the Colonial League meet, capturing the District 11 Class AA title and finishing 11th in the PIAA AA State Championships to cap a triumphant season.
The accomplishments of the boys' and girls' teams have helped Stitzel amass an unprecedented 504 wins since taking over as head coach.
That sustained success has also helped attract more and more runners, allowing Northwestern to build a program that now features 46 kids at the varsity level and another 18 on the middle school squad.
Having a strong feeder program in the middle school is something Stitzel knows will keep his teams competitive well into the future.
"We have to keep that program going because that's the future of our team," Stitzel said. "We have to keep them interested because that's our future. If we want to keep the streak going the way we have been, I need the kids to come out.
"If they can get a good base in seventh and eighth grade, then they're ready to go by the time they get to high school. And they know what it takes because they see the varsity kids working hard and they see how successful they've been."
With a solid foundation in place, there's little reason to believe Northwestern will slow down anytime soon.
GOLFING GREATNESS - Northwestern senior Cole Miller isn't the only one making a name for himself on area golf courses this season. Last Monday afternoon at Mahoning Valley Country Club (Par 72), Marian freshman Albert McFadden won the Schuylkill League Individual Golf Championship with a round of 84, one stroke ahead of Tamaqua's Michael Weinert (85). McFadden is the third individual champion from Marian in the past six years, joining Nick Tristani (2008) and Mike Gottstein (2012). He is also the first freshman to win the Title since Mahanoy Area's Randy Kruzinsky accomplished the feat in 2004.
BOMBS AWAY - Last Monday afternoon, Palmerton's Brianna Doherty scored six goals in leading Palmerton to a 9-0 Colonial League girls soccer victory over Catasauqua. The six goals in a game where the most by any TIMES NEWS area player this season in any sport (boys soccer, girls soccer, field hockey).
TUESDAY TRICKS - Three individual hat tricks where recorded last Tuesday, including two in the same game. In Pleasant Valley's 9-1 Mountain Valley Conference girls soccer victory over East Stroudsburg North, Gabrielle Lucchese tallied four goals, while teammate Keri Dekmar accounted for three goals of her own. In a field hockey game that same day, Northern Lehigh's Erika McKay posted three goals in a 9-0 Colonial League shutout over Wilson.
ALL TIED UP - In Tuesday's Mountain Valley Conference boys cross country match between Lehighton and Pocono Mountain West, the Indians and Panthers founded themselves all tied up at 27-27 at the conclusion of the race. In a cross country meet, each team's top five runners count toward the total team score; however, when the score is tied, the first tiebreaking critera is based on which team's sixth runner had the lower time. In this particular instance, Lehighton's Chris Martin finished in 12th place, while the sixth runner for Pocono Mountain West finished in 16th place, thus making Martin the hero of the match and giving the Indians the victory.
PLEASANT V(A)LLEYBALL - The Pleasant Valley volleyball team captured its second tournament championship of the season over the weekend by winning the 11th Annual Easton Red Rovers Classic. In the championship match, the Bears defeated Northampton 25-23, 25-20. In the semifinal match against Lehighton, senior Mackenzie Dorney recorded her 1,000th career dig. Dorney had 30 digs for the tournament. A few weeks earlier, Pleasant Valley captured the championship of their own tournament (the Pleasant Valley Classic).
VOLLEYING FOR A CAUSE - Two TIMES NEWS area volleyball teams will be hosting special matches next week for a great cause. On Monday, Oct. 7, the Marian volleyball team (along with the Salem Christian volleyball team) will host a "Dig Pink" event in honor of National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. All proceeds generated by the "Dig Pink" fundraiser will be donated to the Side-Out Foundation which awards grants to medical research organizations and entities dedicated to providing compassionate support to breast cancer patients and their families. The Fillies are asking all fans in attendance that night to wear "pink" to the event. Three nights later, the Lehighton volleyball team will be hosting its third annual "Match with a Meaning" versus Pocono Mountain West. In addition to the volleyball match, the event will feature performances from the Lehighton band, the Lehighton show choir and the Lehighton cheerleaders. The gym is being decordated in red with a basket bingo and serving competition taking place during the night. All proceeds from the event will go to the Red Cross for Lehighton residents in crisis.
LUCKY #13 - With a 2-0 victory over Bangor on Monday night, the Pleasant Valley boys soccer team improved to 13-0 on the season and remain the only undefeated team in the TIMES NEWS coverage area. The Bears are currently one game ahead of Stroudsburg in the Mountain Valley Conference standings and are currently the top-rated team in District 11 Class AAA boys soccer.
CANCER AWARENESS NIGHT - The Tamaqua Area Girls High School soccer team will be having Cancer Awareness Night this Thursday at 6:30 against Pine Grove at the Tamaqua soccer field. The players will be wearing pink shirts that were made specifically for this game. There will also be four cancer survivors ( players relatives) representing the team as honorary captains before the game. It will also be Senior appreciation night.