Towson State's women's basketball team offers vivid proof of how drastically things can change from one season to the next.
The Tigers went 17-11 last season, recording the second-highest victory total in school history. Then, they lost their top three scorers, their top rebounder and 68 percent of their offense to graduation. Combine a new, inexperienced lineup with a formidable early-season schedule and it's not hard to figure out why the Tigers have stumbled to an 0-4 start, losing by an average of 22 points.
"We're not playing a slack schedule, by any means. We knew we were going to struggle early," said Towson State coach Ellen Fitzkee, whose Tigers took a 94-62 beating at Richmond on Tuesday, after losing at home by a combined 49 points to Loyola and American. "I'm a little concerned that after getting beaten up for four games in a row, we're losing some confidence. We have to keep preaching that we have some pretty good ballplayers, but we don't have a lot of experience."
Towson State returned only two starters, senior point guard Amy Eberhart (Mount Hebron) and junior forward Tanya Belair. After a disappointing first three games, Belair broke out with 19 points and 11 rebounds at Richmond.
Otherwise, the Tigers have been encouraged by the play of their two starting freshmen -- guard LaTonya Joyner and small forward Sonia Keiner (Hammond). Keiner is averaging 8.5 points and 3.8 rebounds, while Joyner is averaging 14 points. She is the Big South Newcomer of the Week.
By next month, the Tigers expect to hit their conference schedule with a different look. Junior guard Becky Meyers is out for the next few weeks with mononucleosis. The Tigers also should get help from sophomore guard/forward Trinette Tucker, a transfer from Fairfield who will join the team in the St. Joseph's Christmas tournament.
The Mount St. Mary's women's basketball team doesn't lack confidence, not after the Mountaineers traveled to Morgantown on Tuesday night and beat West Virginia, 78-75, under trying circumstances.
The Mountaineers (2-2) held off West Virginia, despite the loss of their top player, senior forward Susie Rowlyk. She sprained an ankle while working out on Sunday and did not play.
Rowlyk's absence allowed sophomore center Kris Bryant (Mount Hebron) to make her first career start, and Bryant responded with 11 points and seven rebounds in 31 minutes.
The real star was junior guard Heather Wable, who was raised about 10 minutes from the Morgantown campus. Wable says she was ignored by the West Virginia recruiters because they didn't think her outside shot was of Division I quality. All Wable did was score a career-high 28 points, pull down nine rebounds and hit five three-pointers in a 20-point first half.
Wable's teammates picked up the slack in the second half. Guard/forward Nicole Schroyer scored 15 of her 17 points after halftime. Guard Amy Langville scored 14 of her career-high 16 after the break.
Mount St. Mary's also got a boost from walk-on Carrie Jenkins, who played well at point guard.
Rowlyk will return Sunday for a 3 p.m. showdown against visiting Loyola. Mount St. Mary's will be going for coach Bill Sheahan's 300th career victory.
Honor for Loyola's Stoffey
Loyola's Patty Stoffey was named Player of the Week in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and the East Coast Athletic Conference on Monday. She averaged 23.7 points and 10 rebounds in the Greyhounds' first four victories.
Making a splash
The UMBC men's swimming team is off to a 5-1 start, and the women's team is 4-2. The Retrievers prepared for Saturday's showdown dual meet against visiting West Virginia (1 p.m.) with a strong performance at last week's U.S. Open in Buffalo, N.Y.
UMBC took 11 swimmers to compete in 18 individual events and seven relays. The Retrievers scored highest among the 12 schools -- including Penn State, Pittsburgh, SMU and Florida Atlantic -- with 116 points, thanks to an outstanding exhibition by junior David Miller (Centennial High).
Miller, the best swimmer in school history, accounted for 72 points, nearly two-thirds of the Retrievers' point total. He scored in six events. His best individual efforts were a fifth place in the 400-meter individual medley and a fourth in the 200 butterfly. He also swam on the 400 and 800 freestyle relay teams that finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Junior Mike Gibeau (Hammond), junior Eric Sloan (Old Mill) and freshman Mike White also scored in two events apiece.
Coppin dismisses two
Coppin State men's basketball coach Fang Mitchell has dismissed two players, sophomore guards Xavier Fuller and Terry Martin, for violating team rules. Fuller was a walk-on. Said Mitchell: "You don't have to do an awful lot at Coppin to be dismissed. Attitudes wear on me -- the wrong ones."