Fall sports preview

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By: Desmond Boyle, Jordan Cope and Chris Wells 

The fall 2016 sports preview is designed to give you a first look at all the sports that Towson Athletics has lined up for the semester. In the following pages, you’ll find your first look at football, field hockey, volleyball and every other sport Towson has to offer this season. We’ve talked to coaches and players to give you a comprehensive picture of what to come.  

Swimming and Diving 

Towson will kick off its 2016 season with an alumni meet at Burdick Pool on Sept. 17 and next be put to the test in its Oct. 6 meet against Penn State.

“Our first true meet is travelling to Penn State,” Head Coach Jake Shrum said. “We’re really going up a weight class, so my expectations are going to be use every race as an opportunity to compete and against some of the fastest swimmers on the east coast.”

The Tigers will also see Georgetown, University of Maryland, Baltimore County, William & Mary, George Mason, Bucknell, Bowling Green, Navy and Delaware this fall.

Although both the men’s and women’s teams are composed mostly of freshman and sophomores, Towson will return some veteran leaders to both groups. Veterans on the men’s side include seniors Nick Breschi and Brandon Ress.

“Brandon Ress and Dominic Breschi had terrific summers,” Shrum said. “I’m looking forward to watching and assisting them become great leaders.”

Sophomore Jack Saunderson will also be returning to the men’s team. Saunderson competed in the Olympic Trials this summer and placed fifth at the U.S. Open.

On the women’s side, Towson has just two seniors on the team who Shrum expects will help lead, but he wants to see the handful of juniors on the team step up and be a positive factor this season. 

“While our two seniors will definitely be leaders, I’m really looking toward the juniors to step in and not just lead, but really be mentors to their younger teammates,” Shrum said. “Kendall Krumenacker, Jacy Icard and Caitlin Manthe are a few girls who will have a huge say in how this team develops this year.”

With the start of the 2016 fall season quickly approaching, Shrum and the Tigers are itching to get back in the water.

“I couldn’t be more excited to start our season,” Shrum said.  “We had a few kids on each team really put together some great meets this summer. It’s always exciting to see your student athletes using that period of time to better themselves, and their team, in the process.” 

Women’s Golf 

Towson will return five golfers and open up its 2016 season with the Chesapeake Bay Invitational hosted by Navy in Annapolis, Maryland. Following its first round of golf this season, Towson will host the Towson Invitational at Eagles Nest Country Club in Phoenix, Maryland.

“We are looking forward to the beginning of the season,” Head Coach Kate Schanuel wsaid. “We have had a good history at both events and it’s a challenging course that fits the team well.”

The Tigers will then attend East Carolina’s Lady Pirate Invitational and the Yale Invitational.

Towson will conclude its season with a match against Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) rival Delaware in Newark, Delaware.

Senior Stephanie Bosdosh, juniors Mackenzie Rice and Alexis Hios and sophomores Jenny Buchanan and Alix Lowe will all return to the team this fall, while the team will also welcome two new golfers, freshmen Erica Han and Josephine Jung.

“I expect our upperclassmen to step up and lead us this year,” Schanuel said. “I also expect Erica and Josephine to step up and earn their way into the lineup as well.” 

Volleyball 

Don Metil, who is entering his fourth season as head coach of Towson women’s volleyball, has a challenge in front of him some coaches might shy away from.

During the offseason, Metil paid attention to small details more than anything and spent time hammering some practice lessons into his new team that a veteran squad would be more accustomed to doing on their own.

“We wanted to work on this young team,” Metil said. “Preseason was a little slow, a lot of deliberate discussions. 95 percent of the kids are young.”

More than half of the 2016 roster is made up of freshmen and sophomores.

“If we get injury plagued then it might hurt us more than others being so young,” Metil said.

The Tigers are ready to start the season strong after ending 2015 in a 3-2 defeat against UNC Wilmington in the CAA semifinals, however,  Towson went 26-6 (12-4 CAA) in the regular season and tied for first in the CAA standings.

In a preseason poll CAA league head coaches voted Towson to finish third in the standings this season.

“On the outside looking in being ranked third is flattering,” Metil said. “Last year we were voted fifth and we ended up tied for first.”

Three Tigers, senior Jessica Lewis and sophomores Jocelyn Kuilan and Anna Holehouse, were named to the Preseason All-CAA team.

In 2015, Lewis was selected to First Team All-CAA and named to the CAA All-Tournament team. She had 349 kills, 37 blocks and 18 assists in 32 matches.

Holehouse appeared in all 32 matches and was named CAA Defensive Specialist of the Year, a member of the Third Team All-CAA and the CAA All-Rookie team. She recorded 596 digs which ranked second in Towson history for a season. Her digs per set (4.77) was second best in the CAA.

Kuilian was named CAA Rookie of the Year and a member of the Second Team All-CAA. She joined Holehouse on the CAA All-Rookie Team. She recorded 426 kills, 36 service aces along with 94 digs, 56 blocks and 11 assists.

The Tigers started the 2016 season strong going 4-0 in the Alabama State Tournament this weekend. Next up for Towson is a trip to New Jersey to compete in the Seton Hall Tournament. 

Football 

Last year, Towson finished the season 7-4 and won five of its last six games. Now, the team is eager to get back on the gridiron to continue its winning ways. The Tigers will begin their season with a game against FBS opponent University of South Florida Saturday, Sept. 3, at Raymond James Stadium.

“I sure hope people haven’t finished their summers off and they want to take a trip to Tampa, because it’s going to be a hell of a weekend,” Head Coach Rob Ambrose said.

Towson has a history of playing FBS teams tough and in 2013 earned its first victory against an FBS opponent with a 33-18 win over Connecticut. 

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The team will later travel to Richmond to take on the Spiders, who were picked to win the CAA, along with Villanova and arch rival Delaware.

“It’s tougher to win on the road,” Ambrose said. “But one of the things that we kind of pride ourselves on the last five or six years has been the ability to win on the road. It seems like we’re even a little more focused when we go into hostile territory. That’s a sign of a veteran group and good coaches who keep them focused, so I’m not worried about it.”

Towson will have a stable and experienced offensive line, along with a deep backfield led by senior Darius Victor, junior Marquel Dickerson and redshirt freshman Shane Simpson.

However, the Tigers will have a new man under center taking the snaps after Connor Frazier graduated in 2015.   

Morgan Mahalak, a transfer from Oregon, was recently named starting quarterback. He was competing with sophomore Ellis Knudson and senior Heath Dahlgren for the job.

Mahalak was set to take over for now-NFL quarterback Marcus Mariota and was once rated the ninth best quarterback in college football by ESPN.com, while Knudson has been with the program for two years and has appeared in four games.

“Offensively, I think we have a veteran group and enough weapons to do some damage,” Ambrose said.

Towson will be anchored by a strong defensive line and depth at the linebacker position.

Senior Max Tejada, redshirt junior D’Sean Cummings and junior Zain Harps Upshur will returning to the defensive line. Each player recorded over 20 tackles each last season.

Redshirt senior Jordan Mynatt, who finished second on the team with 60 tackles, will be returning to the linebacker core along with senior Eric Handy, redshirt junior Bryton Barr and sophomore Chris Tedder.   

Towson was picked by the CAA selection committee to finish sixth in the conference, but with a veteran group of players returning on each side of the football, Ambrose is optimistic about the upcoming season.

“Every year is a new year,” Ambrose said. “But I think as long as we stay healthy, we’ll be pretty good. It’s what happens when young guys play together and get beat up for an extended period of time. They tend to find themselves together and the more they play, the better they get.” 

Soccer 

Towson will hope to finish strong this season, even if that means sacrificing wins early on.

Last year, the Tigers were riding a six game win streak before they opened conference play, then wins became hard to come by. Towson only earned one win throughout conference play and finished second to last in the CAA.

This year, the Tigers have a plan to make sure that history doesn’t repeat itself.

“We had a really not strong conference schedule last season which didn’t prepare us for the CAA because the CAA is a really strong conference,” senior goalkeeper Taylor Sebolao said. “So we’ve been playing some really strong teams like George Washington and ECU to help prepare us.”

The Tigers lost to Georgetown 6-0 before losing 2-1 to East Carolina. While Towson came up short in both of those games, senior winger Natalia Pinkney believes that the Tigers will benefit from early struggles.

“We have a great conference and with our schedule changing a little bit it’s going to help challenge ourselves early,” Pinkney said. “I think that putting ourselves against great teams early will help us for our conference and show them what Towson is really made of.”

Sebolao and Pinkney are two of five seniors returning this year, the other three are forward Izzy Letour, midfielder Marissa Green and defender Lexi Murphy. Pinkney was Towson’s leading goal scorer last season. She scored seven goals and was the only Tiger to register more than 30 shots last season.

The Tigers will open conference play against Elon on Sept. 23. Before then, Towson will face tough tests from teams like Temple, Penn and George Washington.

“I hope we learn from these games how to win,” Head Coach Greg Paynter said following Towson’s scoreless draw with Saint John’s. “A game like this late in the season against Delaware or Drexel we’re going to need to find a way to win.”

Only time will tell if this Towson team learns how to win once CAA games come around. 

Men’s Golf 

Despite a new year and some new faces, Head Coach Brian Yaniger has high expectations for his team.

“We expect to be a team that is in contention to win the CAA Championship,” Yaniger said. “The greater expectation is that every student athlete gives 100 percent effort every time he steps on the course.”

The Tigers will begin their season Sept. 19, in Hartford, Connecticut, at the Hawk Invite.

Towson will then compete in the Patriot Intercollegiate, the Matthews Auto Collegiate Invitational and the Donald Ross Intercollegiate before rounding out its season at the Georgetown Hoya Invitational. 

“We are very happy with our schedule, as we will play in some very competitive events,” Yaniger said. “We should see nationally-ranked teams at each stop along the way. It will be nice to return to the Georgetown Hoya Invitational since, besides being a great event, it allows us to play close to home, and hopefully some of our supporters can come to Four Streams and root us on.”

This year, senior James Grem will be hitting the fairways for his final season with the Tigers.

Grem received second-team All-CAA honors this season after finishing tied for 20th place in last year’s CAA Championships.

“Jimmy Grem had an outstanding year last year, and we expect him to be a team leader this year,” Yaniger said. “He has worked hard during his entire career at Towson, and now he is reaping the rewards.”

Along with Grem, Yaniger is expecting a big year from sophomore Dylan Stein, who finished third among the Tigers last fall with a 73.6 stroke average.

“Dylan Stein had an outstanding year, and we are expecting big things from him on the course, as well as setting an example for the younger players,” Yaniger said. “Dylan is one of the most dedicated players I have had during my time at Towson.”

Towson will welcome two freshmen, Spencer Alexander and Arthur Muller, to the team this fall. Alexander was a two-time MVP at Imagine High School in Newton, Massachusetts, while Muller ranked 347th in the recent French national rankings.

Field Hockey 

With a new year comes a fresh start, and Head Coach Carly Campana expects her team will work toward self-improvement this fall. Last season, Towson finished 2-16 on the season and 0-6 in CAA play.

“True change takes patience and requires discipline and attention to detail,” Campana said. “I expect the team to focus on those areas of athletic performance this year.”

Even though the women on the team are relatively young, Campana said that she was happy overall with their preseason performance.

“There are nine new members of our team that are just learning the tactical changes we implemented this spring,” she said.

Towson will kick off its season with a contest in Farmville, Virginia, against the Longwood Lancers, before returning home to Johnny Unitas Stadium for its home opener against Rider University.

Other non-conference games include Saint Francis (PA), Lock Haven, La Salle, Ohio, Lafayette and LIU Brooklyn.

“We will get to see many different styles of field hockey being played which will only help prepare us for our conference play,” Campana said. “It gives us the opportunity to refine our own play so that we are best prepared going into conference.

The Tigers will take on the Hofstra Pride during their first CAA home game at Johnny Unitas Stadium Oct. 7.

Junior Emilee Woodall and seniors Allie Stauffer and Morgan Skavdahl will return as team captains.

“It’s important to note that we have a lot of strong leaders on this team and each does a fantastic job fulfilling their role on this team,” Campana said. “We have a lot of freshman that will be able to step up and make an impact on the field this year. They are eager to learn and have solid fundamental skill coupled with hockey intelligence.” 

Tennis 

The Tigers finished their 2015-16 season with a 7-1 home record and will look to continue to take advantage of home court when they open up their season by hosting the Tiger Classic.

The Tiger Classic, hosted the weekend of Sept. 9, is one of five matches for the team this fall and the only home match of the season. From there, the Tigers will take to the road for four straight matches to conclude their fall season.

Towson will see Navy, Mount St. Mary’s and Virginia Tech. The team will also compete in the USTA/ITA Atlantic Regional Championships in Norfolk, Virginia.

The Tigers will return their entire roster from last season, including junior Barbora Vasilkova who led the team with 19 victories.

Towson will also return senior Sophie Lessage who finished the season with an overall record of 15-9.

With an experienced group of veterans returning to the team, the Tigers are looking to improve upon their last season.

 

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