Kicking off: Fall Sports Preview

Kicking off a new season

By: Jordan Kendall, Assistant Sports Editor

Coming off a historic 50th season, the Tigers look to build off last year and return to the FCS Playoffs. Last season, Towson finished 7-5 and returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and were ranked No. 20 team in the Stats FCS poll. The Tigers had three top-15 victories and won each game by at least ten points.

File photo by Alexis Brown/ The Towerlight

“We improved but we didn’t finish how I wanted,” said head coach Rob Ambrose. “I thought we were explosive on offense. The addition of Flacco made us better. We probably played below expectations on defense. We played really well on special teams. Two All-Americans doesn’t happen all the time.”

While Towson made strides last season, this team is far from perfect. 

“We need to improve our short yardage game and run the ball,” Ambrose said. “At the FBS level, teams play postseason games in tropical weather, in the FCS playoffs games are always in bad weather. If you aren’t prepared to play in bad weather you won’t go far. We practiced earlier and in colder weather to prepare for colder football.”

Redshirt senior quarterback Tom Flacco was the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Offensive Player of the Year last season and finished fifth in the Walter Payton Award, considered the FCS version of the Heisman. He led Towson in both passing and rushing last season with 3,251 passing yards and 28 touchdowns along with 742 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns.

“He’s incredibly intelligent and athletic, on occasion he can get outside of himself,” Ambrose said. “He needs to stay in the scheme and cut the turnovers.”

Flacco’s backfield partner, redshirt senior running back Shane Simpson was selected for three All-CAA teams, earning selections as a first team running back, second-team kick returner and third team punt returner. Simpson had 711 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns last year, and contributed five receiving touchdowns and returned the opening kickoff vs Stony Brook for a 96-yard score.

Along with Simpson are junior running back Kobe Young, senior running back Yeedee Thaenrat and redshirt sophomore running back Adrian Feliz-Pratt, who missed last year due to injury, leaving Ambrose with plenty of running options heading into 2019.

“There’s only one football and with Feliz-Platt back we have four talented backs,” Ambrose said. “We have four guys who are starters in our conference. Their ability to work together for the sake of the offense is impressive.”

The top two receivers from last season return for the Tigers, in redshirt senior Shane Leatherbury and junior Jabari Allen. Leatherbury led Towson with 885 receiving yards and seven touchdowns, while Allen contributed with 751 yards and eight scores.

On defense, Towson is led by redshirt senior linebacker Robert Heyward, who led the Tigers last season with 99 tackles. Redshirt junior defensive lineman Bryce Carter, who led Towson with 6.5 sacks, also returns. In the secondary, senior defensive back Terrill Gillette looks to fill the void left by the graduated Monty Fenner.

Ambrose said the defense “needs to be a little better against the run and on third down and short yardage. We did a good job of pressuring the quarterback but not in coverage.”

Following the season opener on Aug. 31 at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, Towson hosts North Carolina Central on Sep. 7 at Johnny Unitas Stadium. 

For the first time, the Tigers will face the Florida Gators in Gainesville, Florida on September 28th

The conference slate features road games against reigning CAA champions Maine on Sep. 14 and the preseason CAA favorite, James Madison, on Oct. 26.

CAA home games include Villanova, Albany, Delaware and Elon.

Ambrose stressed how crucial it is for fans to show their support this year in person. 

“We have a winning football program that was ranked in the top ten most of last year. We return four All- Americans and the number one player in the league in Flacco,” he said. “As a Towson grad, I’ve waited a long time to see us ranked and nationally respected.” 

The home opener against NC Central kicks off at 6 p.m. and can be heard on CBS Sports Radio 1300 with Spiro Morekas and former Towson head coach Gordy Combs on the call.

Young Tigers continue to climb higher

By: Muhammed Waheed, Assistant Sports Editor

Towson’s cross country team placed sixth in the 2018 Colonial Athletic Association Championship and No.21 in the 2018 NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional. The goal for this year is to improve upon their rankings from last season.

Brendan Felch/ The Towerlight

“[Our goal is to] get in the top five, but I definitely think we can have one of our better team performances this year,” said head coach Mike Jackson. “The team is really in a good place. The athletes are training very well, training very smart. Things have been very simple with them and then regionally we’re looking to get in the top 20 and I think we can set a goal of 15th or higher.”

Freshmen Alison Belter and Faith Loftus are two new additions to the team. Sophomore Kylie Anicic was a mid-year transfer last year who ran track, but will compete in her first season of cross country this season, Jackson said.

“After having one year under their belts, they kind of have an understanding of how the college process goes and they’ve all come back better than they were this time last year so we do have a young team,” Jackson said. “They’re very excited about what it is that they’re doing and performing well so I think it’s a good sign, having a bright future with our team and working to add more and more people who are serious about being successful.”

Only four members of this year’s roster are upperclassmen.

After their performance in the Towson Invitational over the weekend, the Tigers will now prepare for the James Madison Invitational is in Harrisonburg, Virginia on Saturday, Sep. 14.

“The meet is a preview race for our conference championship,” Jackson said. “We’re looking forward to seeing the course, competing on it and getting a chance against some of our other conference foes.”

The Br. Paddy Doyle Meet of Champions is in Bronx, New York on Friday, Sept. 20.

“We’re looking forward to running up at Van Cortlandt Park and running against some of those teams,” Jackson said. “It’s also a hilly course and fairly tough, but also a historic course so September looks to be a very solid month with some really good competition.”

The CAA Championship takes place on Saturday, Nov. 2 while the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional is in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania on Friday, Nov. 15.

A return to the top on the mind for Metil

It has been awhile since we have heard the loud squeaking of the rubber shoes on the basketball court, the utterance of game commands, and the smashing of a ball against heavy hands. Do not worry, volleyball season is quickly approaching. Right around the corner to be exact. The 2019 season for the Towson Tigers starts Aug. 30 with a three-game trip at Morgan State University.

File photo by The Towerlight/ Nikki Hewins

High expectations are abound this year with familiar faces occupying the roster. The Tigers return the majority of the roster from last season, along with a slew of incoming freshmen. Last year’s fourth place finish in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) will not linger over this year’s team. Head coach Don Metil has put together a team full of young, emerging athletes, ready to work together to get over the hump.

“Team chemistry and staying healthy,” said Metil. “This team is young, but they have already formed a strong chemistry on and off the court.”

Injuries are an unfortunate part of any sport but Metil believes his team will be able to stay healthy this upcoming season. This preseason, the Tigers went through a good amount of grueling practices, and recently, an exhibition game against Navy, who won their respective league championship title.

The upcoming schedule favors Towson, with more games closer to home. This year starts off with the Morgan State University tournament, then a tournament hosted by Rutgers University in Piscataway, New Jersey, followed by two consecutive tournaments hosted by The Tigers. A strong start in tournament play could set up a smoother ride into conference play.

For Towson, success has been just out of reach, finishing in the top two in the CAA standings in four of the last five seasons. The Tigers fared well in the majority of the statistical categories last year, placing in the top half of the CAA in six of seven stat categories. Coach Metil expressed his team is currently “struggling in blocking, and needs to learn new drills and techniques.”

Practice has changed to elevate team play. He has ramped up workouts everyday to maximize the efforts of the young team. Success starts from the top, and Coach Metil has established a winning culture ever since he has been on campus, posting a 114-50 record in five years.

“[The players] receive a culture handbook which has guidelines in place to set the team tone and help the athlete get through their four years on campus to create a culture of accountability,” Metil said.

Metil has high hopes for this team. While returning the majority of the roster is not unusual, it is the returning leadership of senior middle blocker Silvia Grassini and ever-improving chemistry within the team which makes Towson a dark horse candidate for this year’s CAA title.

The Tigers season continues on Friday, Sept. 6 at the Rutgers Invitational. Game one from the College Avenue Gym against Rutgers is scheduled to begin at 10:30 a.m.

Justin Griffith to lead the way for TU 

By: Tim Klapac, Senior Editor

The Men’s golf team returns for the fall 2019 season with a slightly different roster to last year’s. Following the departures of seniors William Bachelor and Doug Grem, the Tigers also lost sophomores Kobdech Rodrat and Nakarin Kornpatlerdsin.

However, this new roster, headlined by Spencer Alexander, the team’s lone senior, is ready to etch a new chapter in the program’s history.

“It was definitely sad to see all four of those guys go,” said head coach Mike Larkin. “I think a lot of guys on the roster see this as an opportunity to make an impact where maybe they hadn’t before. So

File photo by Nikki Hewins/ The Towerlight

hopefully that’s been motivating for everyone on the team.”

Newcomers to the roster feature freshman Brad Riley. Riley captured the Maryland High School 3A/4A State title in 2018 when he attended Sherwood High School in Montgomery County. Along with Riley, freshman Jeremy Summerson adds to a strong core of youth on this roster.

“Brad and Jeremy both have the potential to go right into the starting lineup,” Larkin said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we see both of them playing in a majority of our tournaments and making an impact on our results immediately.”

Larkin hopes the strides made by players such as Alexander and sophomore Justin Griffith and the end of last season continue into this year.

“Spencer and Justin are both strong players and I have no doubt that they’ll be at the level they expect of themselves this year,” Larkin said. “I know Spencer wasn’t satisfied with how he played last year, and I get the sense that that’s motivated him for his senior year. Justin was consistent right from the very beginning of his freshman year. With as solid as it was, though, he knows he left a lot out there. He’s not even close to maxed out and I think he’s motivated to keep pushing that scoring average down every year.”

The season began with the Missouri Tiger Intercollegiate, held in Verona, New York over Labor Day weekend.

“I’m excited for this first event of the fall. It will be one of the strongest fields we’ve played in since I took over in the fall of 2017,” Larkin said. “We can really use this event as a measuring stick at the beginning of our season to see where we’re at and what we need to do to get to where we want to be.”

The Tigers return to the Empire State two weeks later, competing in the Doc Gimmler Intercollegiate, which will be held at the Red Course at Bethpage in Farmingdale.

Following trips to West Virginia and Elon, Towson will wrap up the fall season with the annual Towson Fall Invitational on Saturday, October 19 and Sunday, October 20 at Prospect Bay Country Club in Grasonville, Maryland.

“This fall will be a lot of fun right from the start,” Larkin said.

Jackson looks to juniors to take over

By: Brooks Warren, Staff Writer 

A major youth movement is being built under the guidance and leadership of third-year head coach E.A. Jackson. With 13 freshmen on the roster, the onus will be on their few juniors and lone senior to lead on the field and teach their teammates the culture of the program.

“Thirteen freshman is definitely challenging,“ Jackson said. “That’s a lot of newness, but we recruited these young women intentionally because of their character, and because of their integrity, and their skills.”

 

Owen DiDonna/ The Towerlight

With the aforementioned freshman being on the field this coming season will be full of bumps and bruises. The team will be lead by juniors Beira Ho, Kendra Sykes, and Jenna Florenzo since  junior Abby Webster won’t play this season due to injury and senior Carli Herman is still dealing with injuries of her own and playing a managerial role due to injuries.

“My junior class is the right group to lead this big group of freshmen,” Jackson said. “So far preseason has been so much fun, there’s not a lot of maintaining the culture because they’re the type of class to take ownership of this class.”

One of the highlights of the non-conference schedule is on Wednesday, Sept. 11 when the Maryland Terrapins come to the TU Field Hockey Complex.

“Maryland is always a top five team,” Jackson said. “Their head coach, Misty Meharg, is a mentor of mine, I have a tremendous amount of respect for her. I think it’s going to be a really great test for our young team to sort of see how we stack up against the number two team.”

Other marquee opponents, such as Georgetown, American, and the season opener against Appalachian State, provide an opportunity for the Tigers to show their improvements.

“Teams like Georgetown and App State, and America, another top 25 team, I love keeping those same teams on our schedule year-to-year so we can stage our progress.” Jackson added.

That culture is personified by a few key values that Towson has adopted. Those are leading with love, value humility, and leading with integrity. These values are what Coach Jackson hopes will lead to the Tigers improving beyond just the simple things such as wins and loses. Especially after they were awarded the Colonial Athletic Association Team Academic Excellence Award for their success in the classroom.

“We don’t talk about wins and losses,” Jackson said. “We talk about continuous improvement. Everyday, show up and get better than you were yesterday. Eventually when you focus on that, the wins will come about more so than losses.“

The season continues for Towson on Friday, Sept. 6 against the Lehigh Mountain Hawks in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

New field, New Tigers

By: John Hack, Staff Writer

With their first three regular season games already completed, Towson will have to go up against six more opponents over 20 days before they begin their conference play at Northeastern on Sept. 26.

Brendan Felch/ The Towerlight

Coming into the 2019 campaign, the Tigers present a squad that, while young with 11 true freshmen, have the potential to build on 2018 as they hold onto 16 returning players from last season, seven of which are seniors.

“Hopefully we can take a deep breath and really develop our own personality,” said second-year head coach Katherine Vettori. “I think in the past we’ve tended, last year, to chameleon to who our opponent was.”

Brendan Felch/ The Towerlight

Towson is looking to build off of a disappointing 4-12-3 record from last fall and wants to, among other things, build an identity. One of the benefits of having 19 of 29 players as underclassmen is that you can do just that.

“I want us to have a personality and I think that we’re developing that, and maturing on a daily basis to generate more attack and scoring goals is fun.”, said Vettori

Despite having many new names on their roster, the Tigers also share a fair amount experienced starters as well. Midfielder Justine Stoner returns for her senior season after leading the team with six goals last season.

Helping her out on the offensive rush is sophomore forward Jenna Blank, who had a breakout year last year with seven points while playing in 18 of Towson’s 19 games. Last fall, Stoner was named to the Colonial Athletic Association’s All-Conference Third Team while Blank was named to the conference’s All Rookie Team.

On the back line is a defensive line who will be led by seniors Monica Scaglione and Sydney Davis.

New to the Tiger Soccer Complex this season is the recently installed artificial turf field which will allow more time to utilize for practice.

“We love it. We haven’t missed a training session because [the field] drains so well and just to have a consistent surface with the type of team that we are,” Vettori said.“We are a position-driven team and it’s nice to play on a consistent surface.”

Following a 1-2-0 start to the season, Vettori would rather wait to see how the team will change over the next few weeks before she makes predictions.

“I think that when we re-assess on Sept. 26th with the out of conference play, I think we’ll be totally different than who we are today. So it’s just gonna be a constant evolution,” she said.

The next game for the Tigers will be on Thursday, Sept. 5 against the UMBC Retrievers. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. at the Tiger Soccer Complex.

Peterson eyes the advantage

By: Aaron Thomas, Staff Writer

Last spring, the Tigers surged through the latter half of their schedule, to finish out the year with a 13-13 record. Head coach Jamie Peterson returns for his third season at the helm.

Peterson is excited for this season as this will be the first year with all players in which he recruited into the program. Peterson expects to continue to build good team chemistry and a winning culture here at Towson.

“I would like for the team to improve despite being a young team without any seniors and only two juniors,” said Peterson.

Brendan Felch/ The Towerlight

Having a lack of seniors can pose leadership issues with some teams, but Peterson is confident in the players he has and their ability to lead the freshmen.

“We have four returning players from last year, such as Alexis Martinez, Phoebe Collins, and Lauryn Jacobs, who will keep working hard and are developing more leadership skills,” Peterson said.

In May, Peterson announced the commitment and signing of Sarah Pospischill into the tennis program. She joins Towson from Austria after competing extensively in Europe during her junior career.

“We are very excited to have Sarah committed to Towson,” Peterson said in an interview with towsontigers.com. “She has an extensive junior background playing in Europe and is very committed to school and tennis. She will be our first player to join the program from Austria and will be our fifth international player on our roster, all five from different countries.”

The fall schedule, while brief, features opportunities for the Tigers to make improvements. The season begins at the Maryland Terrapins from Sept. 13-15. Towson’s lone home match of the fall will take place on Sep. 21-22 at the Towson Center for the Sol Schwartz Fall Invitational.

The Tigers will face in-state foe Loyola University in October, then close the season with a trip to Deland, Florida to participate in the Stetson Hatters Invitational.

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