Winter sports preview 2017-2018

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Compiled by Desmond Boyle, Karuga Koinange, Billy Owens and Muhammad Waheed.

Photo by Brendan Felch; photo illustration by Victoria Nicholson.

Men’s Basketball

Towson suffered a heartbreaking end to its 2016-17 season with a loss to the College of Charleston in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) semifinals, but the team has brushed off the tournament loss and looks to have a strong 2017-18 campaign.

“This is a very competitive, tough-minded group,” Head Coach Pat Skerry said.

Towson returns key pieces to the team, including senior guards Mike Morsell and Deshaun Morman. Morsell led the team in scoring last season with 13.4 points per-game, while Morman racked up a team-high 49 steals and 65 assists. Both players earned CAA All-Preseason honors this year.

The Tigers need their leadership to be present early, as they compete in two regular season tournaments.

The team plays in the Florida Gulf Coast Showcase in Estero, Florida. That event kicks off with a matchup against Florida Atlantic on Monday, Nov. 20, and continues with a game against Penn or Northern Illinois Tuesday, Nov. 21. The team could take on UMKC, Georgia Southern, Missouri State or Manhattan the following day.   

Two weeks later, Towson travels to Belfast, Northern Ireland, to face La Salle in the Belfast Invitational Friday, Dec. 1. The team battles either Holy Cross or Manhattan the next day.

Following those two events, Towson heads home to SECU Arena for two local rival games. The team hosts Morgan State in the Battle for Greater Baltimore Wednesday, Dec. 6, and stays at home for a matchup against UMBC on Saturday, Dec. 9, for Pride Day.

The Tigers kick off CAA competition with a road game on Saturday, Dec. 30, against Charleston. Though revenge against the team that knocked them out of contention would be nice, it is not the main focus of the upcoming season.

“Our goals have been the same,” Skerry said. “We want to take care of the ball better and foul less. If we can do those things, then we’ll be an improved ball club.”

The team rounds out conference play with a contest in Boston, Massachusetts, against Northeastern before heading to Hempstead, New York, for a game against Hofstra.

Towson kicked off its season with a tight 57-54 loss against Old Dominion, but looks to rebound with a win against Frostburg State in its home opener at SECU Arena. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m.

Women’s Basketball

New head coach Diane Richardson hopes to lead Towson to its first winning season since 2011-12, after taking charge of a program that has struggled consistently.

Richardson has attempted to create new energy within the program by running higher tempo practices, and establishing a winner’s mentality within a team that has lacked it over the years.

“We wanna win, we wanna win every game,” Richardson said. “[It’s important to] the culture of buying into winning and having that winning mentality. From the very beginning, we want to win.”

Richardson searched for different players that not only fit her playing style, but have a winning mentality. The first-year Towson head coach may have found one in point guard Kayla Davis, a graduate transfer from Xavier.

Davis is a former three-star recruit who recorded 50 rebounds and 32 assists in her sophomore year, and notes that the Tigers are just as feisty as her former Big East school.

“I personally haven’t noticed a very big change as far as the level of competition, the level of competition in practice or the level of coaching I’m receiving,” Davis said. “We need to focus on the little things on a consistent basis, because that’s the way you get ahead of the competition.”

In order for Towson to turn its record around, the team needs to have an identity on the court. In recent years, the team struggled to establish a playing style against its opponents.

Davis described the playing style that Richardson has implemented as run and gun, and Richardson hopes that the team’s practices will condition them well enough to run at a high tempo throughout the crucial CAA schedule.

“We’d like to go to the [NCAA] tournament, so we’d like to win the conference tournament so we can get to the NCAA,” Richardson said. “We talk about planning and being efficient with our practices, so I’d like us to be efficient even before the conference.”

Towson’s conference schedule begins on Friday, Dec. 29, against Northeastern, but there are several tough games before then. Towson’s nonconference schedule includes big matchups against teams like George Washington and Pitt.

“I want to see them fighting, I want to see them fighting for every possession, every rebound,” Richardson said. “That’ll tell me if they’re ready.”

Gymnastics

Seventh-year head coach Vicki Chliszczyk May was voted Regional Coach of the Year for the Southeast Region by the National Association of Collegiate Gymnastics Coaches/Women (NACGC/W) in April, the first time a Towson coach has won the honor since 1990.

“It’s an honor to be recognized for the work we’re trying to do,” Chliszczyk May said. “It’s not just a reflection of myself, but also my coaches, the staff, the girls, the support staff, the athletic trainers, the academic support people — everybody that helps us be successful.”

Chliszczyk May will lead Towson’s program into its 50th anniversary season on Jan. 6, in the Little Boston Invitational, the team’s first meet of the year.   

The Tigers have made some notable changes during the offseason, specifically focusing on revamping their training. According to Chliszczyk May, assistant coach Jay Ramirez has reworked the team’s conditioning in the gym.

The team is also working with Towson’s strength coach Aaron Droege, who has been modifying how the team approaches weightlifting.

“We’re really focusing in on the little details and basics before getting to the harder work and routines in order to get cleaner lines and a better look,” Chliszczyk May said. “The girls are in great shape already, which will help sustain their competition season longer than in the past.”

Towson hosts the conference championships Saturday, Mar. 24, at SECU Arena. This is just one of the six home meets the team has scheduled for 2018. The meet on Sunday, Feb. 18, against Gustavus Adolphus and Southern Connecticut is the team’s 50th Anniversary Night and will honor alumni and past coaches from Towson’s gymnastics program.

“We have more support when we’re at home,” Chliszczyk May said. “The girls have more fun, relax a little bit, and just enjoy it. Their routines are better and their scores are better. The energy in SECU is just going to be electric, and we feed off it very well.”

The team’s ultimate goal this season is to qualify for the regional championships as a team.

“If everyone does their job it’s a realistic goal, but it will really take everyone doing their job,” Chliszczyk May said. “People have to step up and do what they were recruited to do for that to actually happen. We have to work every day in order to get there.”

Swimming and Diving

Towson’s men’s and women’s swimming and diving teams have already began the 2017-18 season, and are looking to improve from the 2016-17 campaign.

Third-year head coach Jake Shrum is confident that both teams will continue to achieve the same levels of success that they have the past few seasons.

Shrum has coached the Tigers to third-place finishes at the CAA championships the past two years.

“Right now, we’re in a short postseason before [the Bucknell Invitational], then we’re hitting the reset button and training for a month and a half,” Shrum said. “Our mindset changed a lot from the start of the season to now, and people are excited about swimming and diving.”

Through the first five meets of the season, the men’s team recorded a 1-4 record, while the women’s team recorded a 3-2 record.

“Our results were kind of expected, and we’ve done a great job of learning from our meet results,” Shrum said. “I’m really happy with the things we’ve had control over at our dual meets.”

Each team has three All-CAA selections from last season returning this season. On the men’s side is junior Jack Saunderson, senior Nick Essing and junior Evan Brophy.

On the women’s team is senior Jacy Icard, senior Kendall Krumenacker and sophomore Sarah-Margaret Locke.

“It’s really about having a full roster of people that can contribute,” Shrum said. “We have 33 girls and 27 guys, but only 20 competed at CAA’s [in February]. It’s also about having people that are on that CAA team that are able to score in events and get top-eight finishes in the bottom half of our roster. Improving is definitely within our grasp.”

The team hired Matt Lowe as an assistant coach in the offseason. Lowe is a 2015 Towson graduate, and former member of the men’s swimming and diving team. He helped the team finish in a school-best second place at the 2015 CAA Championships as an athlete.

“He’s really knowledgeable and really excited to be working here,” Shrum said. “He helps us out a lot. He’s a great stroke technician, and gives great feedback.”

The team’s final event of the fall is the Bucknell University Invitational in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, which starts Friday, Nov. 17, and ends Sunday, Nov. 19.

“We’ll have a decent amount of lifetime bests, which is great for a mid season meet,” Shrum said. “We’ll rest a day before so we’re not as broken down and tired, and it’ll give them a chance to go really fast.”

Following the meet at Bucknell, the teams head to Philadelphia to take on Drexel before returning home to Burdick Pool to face Delaware Saturday, Jan. 20.

Indoor Track and Field

Head coach Mike Jackson enters his third season leading the indoor track and field program. He believes the transition from cross country to indoor track and field is getting easier for his players as his time at Towson continues.

“I think [the transition] is pretty smooth,” Jackson said. “Everyone is starting to get excited about championship season for cross country, but also getting excited for track and field. We have our first meet starting in December, so we’re just getting into some skill development.”

Towson’s first meet will be against Navy Thursday, Dec. 5, as Jackson looks for his team to impress in its first showing.

“[We want to] knock the cobwebs off to see what some of our new student-athletes can do, also just give our returners an opportunity to get an opportunity to compete,” Jackson said.

Towson competes at the New York Armory on Jan. 13, the Prince George’s Sportsplex and at Penn State this season.

“[I want to see them] grow and mature,” Jackson said. “To increase their vision to look towards obviously competing at a higher level, improving their performance individually and team wise having another focus to get to CAA Championships and be able to win, but also looking beyond that as well.”

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