2018 Fall Sports Preview
Compiled by: Karuga Koinange, Muhammad Waheed, Jordan Kendall, Glenn Kaplan, John Hack
The Towerlight sports section takes a look at the outlook of the 2018 fall season.
After a disappointing 2017 campaign, the Tigers look forward to a fresh start. Towson posted a 5-6 record over last season as the team was marred by injuries at several positions. Head Coach Rob Ambrose is looking to bounce back this season.
“I’m very excited on what we’ve done this offseason,” Ambrose said. “I believe the sky’s the limit for us this year.”
The Tigers return a majority of last year’s starters, including redshirt sophomore quarterback Ryan Stover. With three upperclassmen quarterbacks listed on the roster, the veteran experience and leadership could help the team rebound.
Although some expect Stover to start under center, redshirt junior quarterback Tom Flacco looks to secure the reigns under center for the 2018 season. Flacco, younger brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, has provided stiff competition throughout training camp.
Ambrose said he has been impressed by the athleticism of Stover and Flacco over the course of training camp. He has not announced a starter for the Morgan State game, but said he has confidence that either one can lead Towson to a victory.
“This is the best camp we’ve had in years,” Ambrose said. “It’s been much better than last year.”
Several other players have stood out in training camp as well. Redshirt junior wide receiver Shane Leatherbury has displayed good all-around skills.
“[He has] all the tools and is comfortable,” Ambrose said. “He’s an all together wideout.”
Redshirt senior defensive back Monty Fenner has provided a strong, veteran presence over the summer as well. He looks to have a strong year in his final season with Towson. In 2017, he recorded 72 tackles and three interceptions.
“He really gets it,” Ambrose said. “He understands the expectations of being a Towson Tiger.”
Staying in the secondary, sophomore defensive back Mantriel Reaves has demonstrated raw athletic talent.
“[He] has the ideal size, he’s long and has a great skill set,” Ambrose said.
The Tigers will need more than just raw talent in order to have a solid campaign. The team kicks off the season with three consecutive road games, including a first-ever matchup against Wake Forest Saturday, Sept. 8 at BB&T Stadium.
“It’s hard to think it’ll be October when we get to play at home,” Ambrose said. “It’s gonna be hard and always a grind, but it doesn’t matter who you play…They are a great team and Coach Clawson has done a great job. A win would be a great kickstarter to the year.”
FCS over FBS upsets are rare, but Ambrose understands the significance a Wake Forest defeat could have.
“There is good football at all levels, and anyone can beat anyone at any time,” Ambrose said.
As the Tigers enter their 50th season in program history. Ambrose looks forward to building a strong foundation to last many years.
“We’ve done more in 50 years than most programs do in 100,” Ambrose said, “We’ve had a great 50 years. Imagine where this program will be in 100 years.”
With Towson welcoming the largest incoming class in the 150 year history of the University, Ambrose also looks to attract more fans to come out and support the team.
“Be rowdy and loud as hell,” Ambrose said. “You can help change the position of the game. During the 3-4 year run we had multiple opposing coaches told me they hated playing here.”
Towson has five home games this season beginning on Sept. 29 as the Tigers host the Citadel at Johnny Unitas Stadium. The team also hosts Stony Brook, William & Mary, Maine, and James Madison as they look to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2013.
The Tigers had a historic 2017 season as they started the year with a 16-game winning streak and finished with a 27-6 record, earning the program’s first-ever postseason victory.
Though the team aims to advance deeper into the postseason, Head Coach Don Metil does not want to rush the process.
“We always have some goals that we set both for the short term and the long term and right now we’re just trying to get some wins under our belt,” Metil said. “We got a lot of young kids that we’re going to be depending on. A lot new faces that are actually going to be contributors so you could potentially see two outside freshman on the court along with one returner, Annie Ertz.”
Injuries and the departure of Julymar Otero, who earned First Team All-Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) honors in 2017, are leading to new faces getting opportunities on the court.
“We are going through a few injuries right now so there’s a big question mark at our setting responsibility,” Metil said. “We’re going to have someone replacing the exodus of Julymar Otero last year on the right side so out of the six to nine players that we typically use with the offense that we run, about 40 to 50 percent of those kids are going to be new faces. The end goal is to move forward and make the program better than it was last year, but making the postseason is a priority for us.”
With no timetable for the return of several injured players, the team will need some of the less experienced players to rise to the occasion.
“We have some kids right now that have either undergone a concussion already and they’re still trying to get return to play protocols,” Metil said. “One of our setters from last year is still in her return to play protocol so we won’t be the Towson volleyball team of last year probably until the third weekend as far as being a fully functional unit because we have some band aid places right now. We’re just going to see how we can do with some of our younger kids right from the start here because some of our veterans that we called on in years past aren’t fully cleared to play yet.”
Towson kicked off its season with a 3-2 loss on Friday, Aug. 24 against Radford University in the Baltimore Bash. The Tigers will host the three-day Towson Invitational at SECU Arena starting Thursday, Sept. 6. The competitors for that event include Long Beach State, Princeton, Ohio State, and Missouri. Towson’s first matchup of the weekend will be against Princeton Thursday night at 6 p.m.
With a long season ahead, the Tigers have their eyes set on the ultimate goal of a conference title.
“Obviously the end goal is to try to get this squad to win a CAA championship,” Metil said. “It hasn’t been brought to Towson since 2004…And that’s definitely a goal that we’re striving for this season.”
The Tigers finished last season with a 1-16 record in E.A. Jackson’s first year as head coach. Jackson looks to improve upon last season’s record now that she has one year under her belt.
“Every game shows an opportunity for growth and improvement,” Jackson said.
Towson returns several key players such as senior midfielder Katie McNeel, senior defender Erika McKay and junior defender Carli Herman.
“They dedicated themselves to really turn the program around,” Jackson said.
Despite missing half of the 2017 season, McNeel led the team in goals last season with six.
“I’m excited to see what she can do playing a full year,” Jackson said. “She’s a powerful player and athlete.”
They are also going to have to rely heavily on the 18 combined freshman and sophomores on the roster, including sophomore captain Beira Ho.
“She leads the team with intensity and focus during training sessions,” Jackson said.
Towson will open Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) play on Sept. 28 against Hofstra. The team will face CAA foes James Madison and Delaware in October, but Jackson views every game as a big game.
“We came in last in the CAA preseason polls and that doesn’t bother me because we’re the underdogs and have been and we have nothing to lose and everything to gain,” Jackson said.
The Tigers were supposed to debut their new playing field at the beginning of the season, but because of construction issues they hope to be playing on it by the middle of October.
In a 2017 season that saw numerous underclassmen gain heavy playing time due to a scarcity of seniors on the roster, the Tigers finished with a 5-11-3 record. They posted a record of 2-6-1 in Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) play.
This year, however, a combination of experience and team chemistry could be a key strength of the team as there are 19 upperclassmen on the team; 10 seniors and 9 juniors.
Head Coach Katherine Vettori looks to make gradual progress in her first season with the Tigers. She said she has the support of Towson’s administration and plans for the team to succeed over time.
“We’ve been given some fantastic resources over here,” Vettori said. “I think the administration understands that the expectations aren’t going to be overnight.”
Vettori also added that her passion has been the biggest asset that has helped her transition along since her collegiate soccer playing days at Duke. It will be interesting to see how her energy rubs off on the team.
With a solid foundation of youth and experience on the roster along with a first-year coach, the Tigers look to build upon last season and establish a pattern of winning.
Towson kicks off conference play in late September with a matchup on the road against CAA rival Hofstra. With a non-conference schedule ahead that includes tough games against Bucknell University and local foe UMBC, the Tigers aim for a strong start to the season.
In just his second season with the Tigers, Head Men’s Golf Coach Mike Larkin has his eyes set on one goal for the 2018 fall campaign; capturing a Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) title.
“My expectations are to contend for a conference championship,” Larkin said. “Not graduating anybody and essentially bringing back the same roster and adding a few pieces I certainly expect us to do a better job of contending for a conference championship.”
Larkin, a Towson alum and member of the men’s golf team from 2001-2005, said it has been unbelievable to be back at his alma mater coaching the team he once played for. He stressed that the best part about returning to Towson has been having the opportunity to teach players because they remind him of himself during his collegiate career.
“It’s surreal,” Larkin said. “I don’t quite feel far enough removed from it, but it’s a fantastic experience. What I love most about the job is that I can help guys in the same exact position that I was once in.”
The Tigers had a strong end to the 2017 season, finishing in the top three in their final two regular season events before placing eighth in the CAA Championships. With essentially the entire roster returning for the Tigers, Larkin said he looks to build upon last year’s results.
Larkin said that adding depth should help the team improve. Senior William Bachelor looks to have another impressive season as he earned All-CAA Second Team honors last year. Larkin said that several players played well at times, but it will take one more person to step up for the team to achieve their potential.
“We typically last year had three guys playing really well,” Larkin said. “The way that the scoring works, we need four consistently.”
He said that anybody on the roster could step into that role.
“It could be any number of players if not a bunch of players that weren’t at the top of our scoring average last year to step up and become that fourth player,” Larkin said.
Larkin said he adjusted the schedule this season so that the team competes in a lot of warm weather competitions before gearing up for their CAA title run.
Towson kicks off the season with a trio of two-day competitions in September. The Tigers will open the season with the Doc Glimmer event in Farmingdale, New York before heading to South Kent, Connecticut for the Hartford Hawkins Invitational and finishing the month off in Lorton, Virginia with the Patriot Intercollegiate event.
In October, the team will travel to Burlington, North Carolina for the Phoenix Invitational and conclude fall competition in the ODU/OBX Intercollegiate contest in Powells Point, North Carolina.
“We definitely all learned a lot during the year and we will all be more prepared this season because of it,” Larkin said.
Head Cross Country Coach Mike Jackson is looking for his team to execute more well-rounded performances as he prepares for the 2018 season.
“We did not have a great team performance last year at conference,” Jackson said. “We were seventh so looking to improve from there which I think we have a great chance of doing. Have some solid continuity with our seniors and now just looking to add some more fire power to some of our distance athletes.”
The team is in the process of transitioning from outdoor track and field into the cross country season, but Jackson said they are excited to get back to competition.
“Last year was a year that was positive, but we fell short in some areas in terms of team performance so we’re really looking to do a lot better this year from an overall team standpoint,” Jackson said. “[It] looks like the team is primed and ready and can’t wait to get started.”
The Tigers added 11 new members to the team in the offseason, providing more overall competition that could help balance the group’s team performance during the regular season.
“Well it’s great to have some new athletes…last year we had a few transfers, a few freshmen which was great, but when you get a large class it’s just a prime example of how much we build as a university,” Jackson said. “This happens to be the largest class in our university as well as with our cross country team so there’s a lot of good talent and people are really excited about the sport.”
Jackson looks to see a spirited effort from his team to crack the top of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA).
“I think top five in conference hopefully we get in the top 20 in our region and have some individuals really perform well and show a level of seriousness and competition so we just want to be extremely competitive with one another as well as our competitors,” Jackson said.
After a successful 2017 season in which Towson placed in the top five in six competitions, Head Women’s Golf Coach Lisa Ferrero said she wants to improve build upon last year to put together a strong 2018 campaign.
“The girls are motivated to play well,” Ferrero said. “They had such a breakthrough season last year [so] why not continue that into this year.”
The Tigers opens the season in the two-day Towson Invitational Sept. 10 at the Eagle’s Nest Country Club. Ferrero said that she hopes for more turnout than in previous years considering the team’s recent success.
She stressed that she wants the team to experience a variety of different courses this season so that the players can build up experience in different states.
In early October, the team will travel to Greensboro, North Carolina to compete in the Starmount Fall Classic before heading to Pinehurst, North Carolina for the Pinehurst Challenge. Later in the month, the Tigers will go to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware to play in the Blue Hen Invitational. Towson closes out the fall in early November with the Idle Hour Collegiate Championship in Macon, Georgia.
Despite a rigorous schedule, Ferrero said she is excited to see how players develop over the season and looks for the team to rise to the occasion.
“It’s hard to tell because we haven’t played some of these events before but at the same time we’re going to have our own team goals of what we think we can accomplish,” Ferrero said.”If we could just follow through and accomplish those goals we’ll be placing really well in the tournament.”
With a large majority of the roster remaining intact Ferrero looks for several players to improve upon last season. Senior Alix Lowe had the most impressive season for Towson in 2017, becoming the first Tiger to earn All-Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) honors with an All-CAA Second Team selection.
Lowe competed in all 10 events last season and helped lead Towson to a third place finish in the CAA Championships, the highest in program history.
“She made the leap last year and I’m hoping that that continues and then some of the other girls can do that and make the leap forward because we’re really close and it’s pretty exciting,” Ferrero said.
Junior Erica Han and sophomore Sarah Perine also had strong 2017 campaigns. Han notched three top 20 finishes despite missing a large portion of time during the fall.
“[Han] just dominated in the spring and showed me a lot of good things,” Ferrero said.
Perine also recorded three top 20 finishes and managed to compete in all 10 events.
“They’ve got so much confidence spilling that hopefully they’ll carry it over into this year,” Ferrero said.
With a solid overall team and a strong foundation of youth coming from a 2018 recruiting class that includes three freshmen, the Tigers look to have an impressive season.
“When you have a good base and you’re adding more talent to that base good times are ahead,” Ferrero said.