Since transferring to Towson University, TU volleyball’s Olivia Finckel has shone on the court, in the weight room and the classroom
According to her, all the seniors have a leadership role. She considers herself "The Brutal One," because she's not afraid to call out her teammates on the court. But while she admits she can be overly blunt on the court, she says she also is the first person to lend an ear to her teammates off the court.
"I'm a comforter off the court and an enforcer on the court," Finckel laughs.
For Michael Chatman, TU’s former assistant athletic director for strength and conditioning, that attitude is a main reason that Finckel has become one of his favorite all-time athletes.
“She’s an outstanding leader who walks the walk,” Chatman says. “My favorite thing is she isn’t afraid to speak her mind, and because of that and her work ethic it’s easy for others to follow her.
“I truly appreciate who she is and how she goes about her business.”
Finckel has been nothing but business in the Towson Center weight room, as Chatman called her one of TU’s “most well-rounded athletes.” According to Chatman, she strong squats 290 pounds, deadlifts 330 pounds, touches 10 feet on her vertical leap and is one of the quickest players on the court.
She’s also incredibly durable, as she was one of only four players to play in all 123 sets for the Tigers last season. That competitive drive is no surprise to Chatman. In fact, he’s grown to expect it every time Finckel steps into the weight room.
“Liv is like the Energizer Bunny … she’s always going,” Chatman says. “If I had to describe her in one word I’d say consistent. I always know what to expect from her.”
After working with Chatman for three off-seasons, Finckel says she is in the best shape of her life — which she credits to his strength and conditioning program.
But this summer was the last that Finckel and Chatman worked together, as he accepted a position with Stanford University’s strength and conditioning department.
Chatman will not be forgotten, though. Finckel says anything they do this season will be in honor of the work he’s put in with them.
“He’s been huge for us, and every single person on this team can say that.” Finckel says. “He’s changed our work ethic and put it in a place where it will transcend for years to come. He turned our program around, and made us put a focus on hustling and doing what we have to do to win.
“[After workouts] he would ask us ‘have you felt like this during a volleyball game? No, then this is the worst thing you’ll experience.’”
Finckel almost didn’t experience anything at Towson University. The Baltimore County native spent her first year of college at Palm Beach Atlantic University in Florida.
She attended Dulaney High School, just five-and-a-half miles from TU’s campus. After graduating, she didn’t think staying close to home was best for her, either athletically or academically.
In her year at Palm Beach Atlantic University, Finckel helped lead the Sailfish to the NCAA Division II championship game and made the all-tournament team. Not bad for someone who didn’t play competitive volleyball until her freshman year of high school (and who admits that at one point her coach gave her a Volleyball for Dummies book).
Even after playing a short time, Finckel aimed to play at the highest level. So when the time came to transfer, not only closer to home, but also to a Division I volleyball program, it was a no-brainer.
“Coming to TU, I was able to expand my game and catch up to play at the level I want,” she says. “This coaching staff are some of the most knowledgeable people I’ve worked with in my volleyball career. They have such a broad background and are pushing me to be the best I can be.”
And while excelling on the volleyball court is important for Finckel, she also understands the importance of education.
At Palm Beach Atlantic, she wanted to be a marine biologist. But after transferring to TU, which doesn’t offer that program or much access to marine wildlife, she was left trying to find a new major.
As someone who was always interested in neuroscience and functions of the brain, she wanted to combine that passion with her passion for athletics. She is now is a psychology major, with a focus on building a career as a sports psychologist.
At TU Finckel made the Dean’s List and served on the Dean’s Academic Advisory Committee. But most important, she’s finding challenging courses.
She specifically cites a course with adjuct psychology professor Mary Michaloski. Finckel admits that it really pushed her to change her perspective on how to understand people.
“It was incredible because it broke down the perspectives we have of society,” Finckel says. “It was more than a class with just Powerpoint slides – it was personal. You got to know yourself and realize how you understand other people and their perspectives.
“That class just changed my life in general.”
Behind five seniors, the Towson Tigers volleyball team is ready to get the season started. The team kicks off the season on August 31 with the Morgan/Towson Invitational at Morgan State University. The team's first game is against Quinnipiac on Friday, August 30 at 4 p.m.
The Tigers are coming off a 17-15 season in 2018 that saw their season end in a final fifth set loss in the CAA semifinals. For Finckel and the rest of the seniors the goal for the season is clear: Bring Towson University its first CAA Volleyball Championship.
“We’re trying to get rings,” Finckel laughs. “We’re super driven and super focused. We have a lot of new people, but they are integrating well into the program. I honestly believe we can go pretty far this season.”
From broad exposure to basic psychology to an in-depth understanding of the methods used to conduct psychological research, Towson University’s psychology major will broaden your knowledge of the field and its application to everyday life.
This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: TIGER Way.