2018 Winter Sports Preview

[Compiled by Muhammad Waheed, Aaron Thomas, Cyan Thomas and John Hack]

Men’s Basketball

The Tigers finished the 2017 season with a loss to William & Mary in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) quarterfinals. The team went out on a bad note losing their final four games and finishing the season with a 18-14 record.

However, the team has put last season behind them and is ready for a solid 2018-19 season.

Towson has many new faces on their respected roster. Due to the unfamiliarity of these new players, Towson was ranked last in the polls due to the team returning only four players from last year’s team.

Head Coach Pat Skerry is embracing a new culture for this team.

“The team has good chemistry from working hard and being together since the summer,” said Skerry. “The returners have done a good job getting nine new players comfortable in the system and making sure they stay focused.”

Pre-season rankings don’t mean a thing when the ball is tossed up in the air, but the Tigers have a very tough challenge against No. 5 nationally ranked Virginia to begin the season.

Virginia is always in the conversation as one of the best teams in college basketball. The Cavaliers earned the number one overall seed in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament before falling to No. 16 seed University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) in the first round. UMBC was able to pull off arguably the best upset in college basketball history to end Virginia’s season last year.

Towson is looking forward to making history by becoming the next team from Baltimore to upset the Cavaliers.

“Playing UVA will be a great challenge that will help prepare for the regular season and conference play,” Skerry said. “I tend to make our out-of-conference schedule harder, so we will be used to playing tougher competition.

Skerry emphasized hard work and camaraderie within his team in order to build good chemistry that will translate as teammates on the court and as family off the court. The team will have plenty of time to bond during their trip to the Bahamas.

Towson will participate in the Islands of the Bahamas Showcase in a three-day tournament beginning with the first game against Pepperdine on Friday, Nov. 16.

Women’s Basketball

Towson ended its season with an opening round loss in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) against UNC Wilmington.

The Tigers look to improve on their 9-21 record from last season as they lost their final seven games to finish the season. This year’s team aims to flip the program around despite underclassmen making up a majority of the roster.  

Though the team is ranked eight out of 10 in the CAA conference preseason poll, Head Coach Diane Richardson is confident in her second season at the helm.

“I am really excited about this upcoming season,” Richardson said. “I have been impressed with the way our returners have provided leadership to our eight new players. I like how our freshman and transfers have remained poised and stepped up their game.”

Junior Nukiya Mayo was selected to the CAA Preseason All-Conference Second Team. She earned Third Team All-Conference honors after averaging 12.6 points per game in 2017.

Senior shooting guard Danielle Durjan is also primed for a good season. Last season, she started 29 games out of 30 while averaging 8.6 points per game.

“I definitely believe that this season we have a lot of potential to do a lot of great things,” said Durjan. “We have all the assets and we work hard together while building good team chemistry on and off the court that will help us grow throughout the season.”

Towson faces stiff out-of-conference competition this upcoming season. The team will be on the read for eight out of their first 11 contests, including a tough matchup against West Virginia University in mid-December.

The Mountaineers are nationally ranked No. 13 in the Women’s Preseason AP Poll. This game will be a challenge for the Tigers that will help prepare the team for conference and postseason play.

The Tigers open the season Tuesday, Nov. 6 on the road against Wake Forest in Winston Salem, North Carolina. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

Indoor Track & Field

Cross country season is nearing a close and that means that the indoor track and field season is about to begin with the first meet scheduled for early December.

There is a lot of excitement heading into the season.

“I cannot be excited enough,” Head Coach Mike Jackson said. “There’s just so much talent on our overall team, so much ability and so I think it’s great for us to all come together. So with cross country just depends on the training and the plan, but for indoor track December first will be a first meet for many of our student athletes and then we’ll carry onto January.”

Jackson emphasized that the Tigers are more determined than ever to have a strong season.

“Destroy and conquer, leave a mark, really come together, cohesion, get to know one another,’ Jackson said. “We have a lot of you people and mature every single day and every single week as a program and just know how good we are and so really just destroy and conquer, leave our mark and give everything that we have and give our best performances every single day.”

Some of the excitement for indoor track and field comes from the potential of younger members of the team.

“I expect them to show us what they’re made of now,” Jackson said. “Obviously we want to be as patient as possible, but sometimes we’re too patient. You know some kids are ready to go now. I mean we see it in a lot of different sports so lets do it. You came here. They went through the recruiting process. They chose Towson. We chose them so it’s time to perform.”

With young talent abundant on the team, Jackson looks for success in multiple areas of competition.

“It’s really everything, “Jackson said. “I mean we have outstanding throwers. Pole vault is going to be great. Our sprints and hurdles will be outstanding. Jumps, distance, I mean we have something in every single area so I’m excited overall and there’s so many people I could speak of that I think will make an impact.”

The team is looking to make big improvements from last season.

“We would like to have a chance to get to indoor NCAA championships,” Jackson said. “It’s going to be difficult. It’s time to move into the upper echelon and win. Lets win ECACs and then we’re just going to some new track and field meets and some more high caliber meets so we want to make sure that we leave our mark there.”

Swimming & Diving

Towson has already jumped into their 2018-19 season, and with Head Coach Jake Shrum at the helm, the team looks to put together a monumental season.

Senior Jack Saunderson, who was recently chosen to represent the United States at the 2019 World University Games, has broken both Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) and Towson University records as he continues to put up impressive numbers.

First year Assistant Coach Carrie Dukes is meshing well with the team and bringing new energy to the players.

“She brings a great sense of enthusiasm to our morning practices and has clicked really well with our coaching staff and team members,” Shrum said.

For the past three years, the Tigers have ended their season with third-place finishes at the CAA Championships.

On the men’s side, team captain Senior Evan Brophy, a former CAA Conference Swimmer of the Week has been displaying consistently remarkable performances.

On the women’s side, Junior Meghan Jones, who had two first-place finishes at the 2018 CAA Championships, is alongside Mangum in leading the women’s team to a successful winter season.

The team has welcomed several promising freshmen, such as Ryan Baldino, Cody Stewart and Suzannah Mills. They have all cemented their position on the team already with solid performances.

“Ryan Baldino has done an awesome job for us in the sprint Freestyles.”, stated Coach Shrum. “Evan Lynch and Cody Stewart have also both provide a really high level of depth in their best events as well. On the girls side, Suzy Mills has the second fastest time in the conference in the 500 Freestyle and has had other significant swims, and Sarah DiGaetano has done an awesome job in her diving events.”

The Tigers will finish off the fall season with a spot in the Bucknell Invitational in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

“Our mid-Season invitational meet at Bucknell University is always a great chance for us to see how we’ve progressed this Fall,” Shrum said. “By all accounts we’ve had a great first two months of our season so we are all excited for that opportunity to race in a prelims/finals meet.

After winter break, the team will have a few more meets until the March 2019 CAA Championships in Austin, Texas.

Gymnastics

Last season, the Towson women’s gymnastics team ended their season with a combined 15-19 record against opponents that spanned across 10 different meets. This was a slight improvement from the year before, when the squad posted a record of 9-12.

The 2019 campaign will kick off the programs 51st season in their gymnastics program’s history. Vicki May returns for her eighth season as head coach. Last year, she became just the second coach in the program’s history to be named the ‘National Association of Collegiate Gymnastic Coaches for Women’ (NACGCW) Southeast Regional Head Coach of the Year.

First year assistant coach Mary Fredericks joins the staff for Towson as well. Fredericks was a member of the United States national team for seven years, a seven-time national champion on the uneven bars and a four-time international champion under the same exercise.

This year, the Tigers come into the season with high expectations as seniors Cortni Baker, Mary Elle Arduino and Erin Tucker lead the team.

Baker will look to add to her impressive resume coming off a season where she placed in the top ten 21 times, set a season-best on the uneven bars (9.800), and, among other feats, was named to the All-EAGL Scholastic Team.

Arduino won the balance beam event on two separate occasions last year and placed in the top five 11 times. She also set career highs on the vault (9.725), uneven bars (9.750) and floor exercise (9.650).

Tucker set career highs on the vault (9.850), floor exercise (9.850), balance beam (9.725), won the vault title at 3 different meets and finished in the top ten 22 times last season.

The Tigers kick off their 2019 season on Saturday, Jan. 12 at the Little Boston Invitational where they will take on Penn State and Temple.

Towson will host their season opener on Friday, Jan. 18 at SECU Arena. They will be competing against North Carolina State, William & Mary and Cornell.

This year, the Tigers are returning five seniors from last year, but they also lost five seniors. The team has a unique blend of youth and experience with four freshmen, two sophomores and four juniors listed on the roster. With such a mixed team coming into the new year, the Tigers can look forward to relying on experienced upperclassmen while also giving developing young talent.

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