TOWSON STATE might not be going to the NCAA soccer tournament, but the Tigers are doing a good job of defending their East Coast Conference championship.
With just about everyone back from his first ECC title team, coach Frank Olszewski thought Towson State might be able to make some noise against established South Atlantic Region powers, but the Tigers lost one-goal decisions to George Washington, American, Maryland and Loyola.
The ECC is another matter. Yesterday the Tigers outlasted UMBC 2-0 in overtime, running their record to 9-4 overall, 5-0 in the conference. They can wrap up their second straight regular-season crown Saturday with a win at Central Connecticut, and Towson State is assured of finishing no worse than second in the conference. The four-team playoffs begin Nov. 6.
The biggest hole Olszewski had to fill was in the goal, where he had to replace a four-year starter. Redshirt freshman Rich Pellegrini has taken over for Brian Hinterberger quite nicely, as yesterday was his ninth shutout of the season, tying a school record. Pellegrini prepped at John Carroll.
The goals were scored by Barry Stitz and Ed McCue, with Joey Layfield assisting on both. Layfield injured a leg in a 1-0 overtime win over Drexel Sept. 22 and hobbled around for several weeks, but the junior from Calvert Hall is still Towson State's top point-getter with three goals and seven assists.
UMBC owned the second half of its doubleheader with Towson State, as the Retrievers' volleyball team swept the Tigers 15-11, 15-9, 16-14. UMBC has a first-year coach in Catherine Anderson and some impressive first-year talent in freshman Kelly O'Brien and Joy Figueredo, a junior college transfer from Florida.
O'Brien played at Thomas Wootton High in Rockville, a perennial state champion.
* Remember the brutal basketball schedule that Towson State faced last winter? The Tigers opened at home, then went on the road for 12 games that stretched more than seven weeks.
Morgan State can top it.
Michael Holmes is the Golden Bears' new coach, but you won't be able to see him work a game at Hill Field House until Jan. 11, against Brooklyn College. Morgan State plays its first 12 games on the road, and while the athletic program is going to pick up some cash guarantees, the rebuilding Golden Bears aren't going to get many wins.
Morgan State opens Nov. 23 at Providence. Four days later, it's at Georgia Tech. There are stops at Southwest Missouri -- a team unheard of in these parts but as solid as any on the schedule -- Florida State, St. Bonaventure, New Mexico State . . . you get the picture.
* Loyola is enjoying big returns in its second year in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The Greyhounds just picked up MAAC titles in golf and women's tennis, and placed second in the men's tennis tournament. Loyola's Tom Graminga posted a five-stroke victory in the three-round golf tournament in Kiamesha Lake, N.Y.
For the second time this season, senior Gina Iarocci is the MAAC Player of the Week in volleyball.
The MAAC remains a wasteland in soccer, one reason Loyola remains out of the Top 20. The Greyhounds were 11-0 in the conference last year, and have outscored four MAAC opponents 23-0 this fall. Loyola is home this weekend against Iona Saturday (1 p.m., Youth Day) and Siena Sunday.
Next Wednesday the Greyhounds travel to La Salle, the only other MAAC team with a winning record.
* Millersville resident Larry Layman has been a major contributor to Frostburg State football.
Layman is the coach at Crossland High in Prince George's County, and two of his former players start for the unbeaten Bobcats. Tony Hooker is a four-year starter at nose guard, and sophomore quarterback Mike Jones is doing a superb job running the wing-T offense that is averaging more than 338 yards rushing per game.
Layman had even more to do with the Frostburg State kicker, since Scott Layman, who went to Old Mill High, is his son.