Spring Sports Preview 2018

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Compiled by: Jill Gattens, Karuga Koinange, Billy Owens, Casey Collins, Desmond Boyle and Muhammad Waheed.

Photo by Brendan Felch; photo illustration by Victoria Nicholson/ The Towerlight

Men’s Lacrosse

Towson men’s lacrosse enters the 2018 season looking to secure its fourth consecutive Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Championship.

“It’s always going to be a battle,” Head Coach Shawn Nadelen said. “Our conference is extremely tough, so it’s going to be challenging. We will be going into conference games with guys on the field that may not have played, so that’ll be a new experience for them. They have to learn how to compete in those environments and be successful in those environments, so that’ll be a new wrinkle for us in the program.”

The Tigers return an experienced defense with junior Chad Patterson and senior Sid Ewell on the back line. Last season, Patterson was named to the CAA All-Tournament Team, while Ewell was named Second Team All-CAA and recorded 12 turnovers.

Though the defense remains intact, the team had to replace its main attackers during the offseason. The progression of the young offense will be a key component in building success.

“I think the biggest thing for any offense is how quickly you can form chemistry and continuity,” Nadelen said. “They’re trying to figure out what we want to accomplish offensively, and how they fit into that. It’s a work in progress and something we hope to have improve as the year goes on.”

The team will need to develop a good rapport quickly in order to perform well in non-conference play. Towson will face a myriad of tough teams in late March with matches against Ohio State, Duke and Denver.

“It’s a good challenge for our guys the way our schedule shakes out, and we’re looking forward to those opportunities,” Nadelen said.

Despite an unproven roster with just eight seniors, Nadelen looks at the difficult schedule as a growing opportunity for the crop of young players.

“Part of the reason that we have a tough schedule overall is we want our players to understand they have to be at their best every day,” Nadelen said. “We preach that, and we try to bring that out of our players in practice.”

Women’s Lacrosse

Towson women’s lacrosse made another postseason appearance last year, but were bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Despite its early exit, Head Coach Sonia LaMonica knows that the team can go much further this season.

“Based on what we’ve seen so far from our group, from a work ethic standpoint and a talent standpoint, I think the sky’s the limit,” LaMonica said. “I think we expect to make an exciting run in the tournament. That’s certainly what we’re shooting for. We want to be competing on Memorial [Day] Weekend, and this group believes in that.”

Seniors Tianna Wallpher, Emily Gillingham and Kaitlyn Montalbano were named team captains for the 2018 season. The three veterans look to pass along their knowledge to the younger players on the team.

“The trio is doing a great job,” LaMonica said. “They have really bought in to what we’re trying to do, and I think they’re doing a great job of holding themselves and their teammates accountable to the work we need to put in every day.”

The Tigers will need that veteran leadership, as LaMonica has a young crop of recruits who look to contribute in future seasons.

“I think we’ve got a great freshman class,” LaMonica said. “That can be a rarity for a freshman to come in and move into a starting role right out of the gate. They’re working hard [and] challenging their teammates, so I think they’re a great group. They’re going to leave their mark on our program, no question.”

The impact of the team’s freshman class is showing early, as attacker Kaitlin Thornton has already secured a starting spot. Thornton recorded her first career goal Saturday, Feb. 10, when the Tigers defeated No. 15 Penn State 14-13 at Johnny Unitas Stadium.

“She’s very talented, and she’s got a niche role that she’s starting to develop,” LaMonica said. “We’re seeing great stuff from her [and are] really excited about her future and the opportunity that she has so early in her career.”

The team will need its youth to continue to be productive as they will face No. 2 Stony Brook and No. 4 Florida in consecutive weeks during mid-March non-conference competition.

Towson also faces conference opponent Elon, and crosstown rivals Johns Hopkins and Loyola later in the season. Competition will be difficult as all two of these three opponents are receiving votes in the Inside Lacrosse Poll rankings.

Baseball

Under the new leadership of Head Coach Matt Tyner, Towson looks to improve in all areas of the game as another season begins.

The team is looking to better its record from last year’s 20-34 campaign. Towson would also like to win more conference games this season. Last year, the team finished just 6-18 in CAA play.

The Tigers opened their 2018 season with a three-game road series at New Mexico State Feb. 17-18. The Tigers came away with one win in that series.

Towson also faces Virginia; University of Maryland, Baltimore County; and University of Maryland, College Park on the road this season.   

The Tigers host Delaware, Hofstra, College of Charleston and James Madison in CAA play at John B. Schuerholz Park later in the year.

During the offseason, the team emphasized endurance and power with the help of Strength and Conditioning Coach Justin Houng.

“It’s the backbone of anybody’s program in today’s baseball environment,” Tyner said. “We’ve gained size, gained strength and we feel that will help us prevent injury and certainly help us perform better on the field.”

The Tigers are an upperclassmen-dominated squad with senior pitcher Michael Adams, redshirt junior pitcher Alex Cuas, junior shortstop Richie Palacios and redshirt junior outfielder Mark Grunberg returning.

Palacios was named an Honorable Mention Preseason All-Colonial Athletic Association selection earlier this month.

Although Towson is gunning to win as many games as it can this season, the team is ultimately looking to work on its fundamentals.   

“For us to be successful this year, I’m not sure we’re going after x-number of wins verses x-number of losses,” Tyner said. “More so, we want to learn how to take care of the small things that make baseball teams successful in the long run.”

Tennis

Second-year Head Coach Jamie Peterson worked with his team to come up with two goals for the 2018 spring season: Win 18 matches, and get to the final round of the Conference Championships in April.

“It’s a high goal, but it’s an attainable goal,” Peterson said. “We went 13-12 last year and lost five 4-3 matches, so [winning those and getting to 18 wins] would put us in position for a top-five seed at the Conference Championships.”

Peterson, who served as Interim Head Coach last season, said he is much more comfortable coaching this year since he already has an idea of what to expect throughout the spring.

“I’ve [already] been through that experience and adjusted my coaching style a little bit,” Peterson said. “I’m at that same point with the girls; I give them a structure and discipline, but at the same time I try and make things as comfortable and less stressful as possible.”

Some of the changes that Peterson has made since the fall include doing more video work with the use of GoPro cameras to record and watch matches, as well as helping the team understand how nutrition and other things off the court directly impact their performance. The team also now works with strength and conditioning coach Joe Alexander.

“[Joe] gets some credit, the girls really like him and he’s been working them hard,” Peterson said.

With five of the team’s nine players being seniors, Peterson has mostly finished the recruiting process for the fall to bring in four new players to fill the upcoming vacancies. Picking the match lineups this season, though, is tough enough, which he credits to the team’s depth.

“This year, we’re deeper than we’ve ever been,” Peterson said. “I think it’s a bigger challenge this year to make the line-up, since the top three players are established, and with four through nine it’s a bit more mucky.”

The team has already played five matches this spring and currently holds a 3-2 record, but its toughest tests are ahead of them. One notable match is March 2, against CAA rival James Madison.

“James Madison has had our number every year, and the girls seem to get a little overwhelmed by them, but if they can mentally overcome that, it’d just be huge,” Peterson said.

Another big matchup is April 7, at William & Mary, one of the best teams in the CAA.

“We’ll really look forward to playing William & Mary,” Peterson said. “This is the first time they’ve put us on our schedule, which is a big step for Towson University, since they’re a perennial top-40 team in the country.”

The Tigers have six home matches scheduled to be played on campus at the Tiger Tennis Complex later this spring, with the first coming March 25 against Rhode Island.

Near the end of the season, the team will face several conference opponents within days of each other, including a potentially tough home match against Delaware on April 11.

Some coaches might be concerned about their players being too fatigued to perform at their best at such a critical point in the season, but not Peterson.

“That’s the benefit of having good depth,” Peterson said. “If we have some tired players, we can put fresh players in and not lose much. We’ll get to find out who’s playing the best going into the conference tournament.”

Track & Field

Towson track and field will transition from indoor to outdoor March 15, at the 49er Classic in Charlotte, North Carolina, as the team looks to build upon its success from last year.

Head Coach Mike Jackson was pleased with his team’s accomplishments from last season, and wants to see his team continue to excel this spring.

“Last year was a great year for us highlighted by winning a Conference Championship for the first time in our school history, and then having a great performance at the ECAC Championships,” Jackson said. So [we’re] looking to try to see if we can put out a good effort to win conference again, and move up in the ranks nationally.”

Junior Lauren Coleman ranked in the top-10 among the entire CAA for her shot put and hammer throw. Senior Ksenia Safonova also qualified as a hammer thrower.

The Tigers will rely on veterans like Coleman and Safonova to lead by sharing their wealth of experience.

“I think many of them remember how it felt to be able to have such success,” Jackson said. “Just recognizing the possibilities and opportunities should be something to help them stay motivated, but the other thing is a lot of the people who are on that team are not here anymore, and we have a lot of new talent so [we’re] just getting them to understand the process and really focus on the task at hand.”

Along with being physically prepared, the Tigers will have to be mentally focused in order to maintain last year’s results.

“I think trying to repeat is a tough thing, and that’s not our mindset,” Jackson said. “Our mindset is to do well during Championship season this year, and then from there if we’re able to win I think that would be outstanding. If not, then that means that someone was better than us, but I think that we’re going to put out a great effort and be proud of what we do.”

Men’s Golf

Head Coach Mike Larkin continues his first season with the Tigers, looking to have a victorious debut Feb. 25-26, at the Loyola Intercollegiate in Goodyear, Arizona.

Larkin hopes to get off to a strong start this spring after his team concluded its fall season with a top-10 finish in the ODU/OBX Invitational at the Kilmarlic Golf Club in North Carolina.

Following the Loyola Intercollegiate, Towson heads to Williamsburg, Virginia, March 25 -27, for the Kingsmill Intercollegiate. Towson struggled in the three-day tournament hosted by William & Mary last season, placing 21st out of 22 teams.

The following weekend, the team hosts the Towson University Spring Invitational April 7-8 in Grasonville, Maryland. Towson had one of its most successful weekends of the season in this competition last year, placing second out of 22 total teams.

Towson concludes its regular season the next week in the Navy Spring Invitational hosted by the United States Naval Academy, before officially wrapping up the season with the CAA Championships in Raleigh, North Carolina, from April 20-22.

The Tigers are led by sophomore Spencer Alexander, junior William Bachelor and freshman Kobdech Rodrat. Those three athletes played in all five events this past fall, and each averaged a score of 72 per-round.

Women’s Golf

Towson women’s golf Head Coach Lisa Ferrero led Towson to top-six finishes in all five of its competitions in her first season with the team in the fall.

Ferrero and the Tigers will look to replicate their success in the spring season, which begins Feb. 25, in South Carolina.  

The team kicks off its season at the Kiawah Island Spring Invitational hosted by the College of Charleston. The event will take place at the Kiawah Island Resort.

A few weeks later, the team travels to Fort Myers, Florida, to play in the Spring Break Shootout hosted by Florida Gulf Coast.

Later that month, the team heads out west to face Sacramento State in California. The two-day event will take place March 19-20.

The Tigers return juniors Alix Lowe and Jenny Buchanan, and senior Alexis Hios. Each athlete played in all five events in the fall, with Lowe posting the best numbers. She shot an average score of 74 per-round with a team-low single round score of 68. Hios and Buchanan also had successful fall campaigns, both averaging 75 strokes per-round with Hios shooting a low round of 69, and Buchanan shooting a low round of 70.

The team finishes up its regular season against Navy April 7-8, before competing in the CAA Championships April 13-15 in Southport, North Carolina. Last year, they placed fifth in the competition, the best finish in program history.

Softball

The Tigers are hoping to make it back to the CAA Tournament after missing out last year for the first time in five seasons.

Towson struggled on the road last year, going 6-15 in matchups away from the Tiger Softball Complex. The team also had problems on the mound, as sophomore Julia Smith-Harrington was the only pitcher with a record above .500.

Head Coach Lisa Costello knows that in order for Towson to get back to the CAA Championship, pitching will have to improve.

Costello also hopes that a more rigorous non-conference schedule will prepare her team better this year for CAA play.

Towson opens up conference play this year on the road against two-time defending champions James Madison on March 24. That game should serve as a good test to see how the team will fare in the upcoming conference season.

Seniors Shelby Stracher and Kendyl Scott look to provide enough firepower on offense to get Towson back on track. Stracher led the team last season with 11 home runs and has two this season, while Scott led the team with a .341 batting average.

Costello knows how important it is for seniors like Scott and Stracher to return to the CAA tournament.

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