PG West: Road-tested Geneva women's team off to impressive 9-0 start
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Geneva College women's basketball coach Ron Galbreath was talking about his team's 7-0 start two weeks ago when he paused for a second.
"We've had a lot of home games," he said offhandedly. "Good teams have to go on the road and show they have the ability to win. We haven't been road tested yet."
That's not the case any more.
Geneva traveled to West Virginia to play Bethany College 10 days ago, coming away with a 79-68 overtime victory. That upped the Golden Tornadoes to a school-record start of 8-0. They then traveled to Penn State Beaver Dec. 15, winning 75-51.
It's just another chapter in the remarkable program Galbreath has established since taking over in 2002.
Last season, Geneva went 24-5 and advanced to the NAIA national tournament. That won't happen this season since the Golden Tornadoes are provisional members in the NCAA Division III Presidents' Athletic Conference. They are not eligible for the conference title or the Division III playoffs, but still can compete in the ECAC and National Christian College Athletic Association postseason tournaments.
"This isn't going to be a lost season for us," Galbreath said. "We're in a new league and it's important that you establish yourself. We're in with new teams and its important that you earn their respect, and that's the way it should be."
If going undefeated in nine games hasn't earned Geneva respect in the PAC, nothing will.
Geneva also owns a 48-46 victory against Washington & Jefferson, the preseason pick to capture the conference title.
No coach this side of Duke expects to open a season with nine consecutive wins, so Galbreath has been be somewhat surprised. But he knew he had an experienced group returning that included starters Allyson Clarke, a 6-foot senior forward from South Side Beaver High School, and Renee Rawding, a 5-9 forward from Blackhawk High School.
They were Geneva's leading scorers last season, averaging 15.5 and 11.8 points per game, respectively. So far this season Rawding is averaging 19.6 ppg, Clarke 16.1 points and 9.1 rebounds.
Clarke is the team's go-to player. She scored 25 points and grabbed 18 rebounds in the victory at Bethany.
"She's the one we look to for the big basket, the key rebound," Galbreath said. "But until just lately we have been shooting the ball so well that we didn't need to look inside to her so much.
"Really, our veterans are filled with confidence from last year. And the nice thing is that our other starters were our sixth, seventh and eighth players last season, so they played in the playoffs. Now all that extra work is paying off."
Michawn Rich, 5-9, from Reno, Nev.; Bridget Beachy, 5-4, from Boardman, Ohio; and Lauren Uranker, 5-5, from South Fayette High School, are the other starters. Rich and Uranker are seniors, Beachy is a junior.
Freshmen Rachel Berry, 5-6, from Butler; Christine Carugati, 5-8, from Beaver High School; and Valerie Hamilton, 5-10, from Portersville Christian, have also seen considerable minutes along with Whitney Goist, a 5-6 junior from Columbiana, Ohio.
"We're still learning about ourselves ... establishing our own M.O. our own identity," Galbreath said. "We are really an execution team, a set-it-up type of team."
What has helped the Golden Tornadoes get off to the fast start is confidence. Galbreath said that played a key role in the home win against W&J.
"Down the stretch, when there was a timeout, there was no panic or anything from our players in the huddle," he said. "There was no fear. It was more of a let's-get-it-done type of attitude. Now, we were at home and maybe on the road we make a mistake."
Galbreath is quick to point out his team is not without its warts. He believes the Golden Tornadoes can do a better job rebounding and said they need to cut down on turnovers.
Still, it's tough to argue with an 9-0 start. Geneva doesn't play again until traveling to Pitt-Greensburg Jan. 3.
"Hey, I'm pleased. The ladies are doing a good job," he said. "But we need to get better. I've always tried to make my teams play a little better each month and that's one of our goals.
"I told the players "Let's not get a bloody nose before we have to learn to do something better. Can't we learn while we are winning?'"
That seems to be what's happening.
Last season the milestone was 600 victories. This time the magic number was 100.
Geneva women's basketball coach Ron Galbreath collected his 100th victory as the Golden Tornadoes' coach Dec. 15 when Geneva defeated Penn State Beaver, 75-51.
The Golden Tornadoes are off to an 9-0 start, upping Galbreath's record at Geneva to 100-42. He took over the program for the 2001-02 season.
Only two other women's coaches at Geneva have 100 victories. They are Kim Gall (158-182) and Jackie Myers (107-121).
Galbreath's career record is an impressive 622-299. He coached the men's team at Westminster College for 25 seasons.
First Published December 27, 2007 12:00 am