MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Poised to even the all-time series, the No. 3-ranked West Virginia University rifle team welcomes No. 5 Alaska Fairbanks to the WVU Rifle Range on Friday, Jan. 20, for a 12:30 p.m. match. WVU will then travel to Ohio State for an 8 a.m. match on Sunday, Jan. 22, at the Lt. Hugh W. Wylie Range in Converse Hall.
After winning the last three meetings, including last year’s 4696-4646 victory, the Mountaineers (7-0, 4-0 GARC) are one match away from tying the all-time series with the Nanooks (5-3) at 6-6.
The annual meeting between WVU and Alaska pits two of the nation’s most storied programs against one another, as the two squads own a combined 24 NCAA titles. The Nanooks have won nine titles since 1999, while the Mountaineers won their nation-best 14th championship in 2009.
Most recently, WVU finished in second place at the 2011 championships, while Alaska placed sixth. The Nanooks earned second place in 2010, while the Mountaineers finished third.
“This is definitely a big rivalry,” says Mountaineer coach Jon Hammond. “Alaska has been one of the premier programs over the last few decades. This match is definitely one that we circle every season. It is going to be a good test for us, especially for some of the younger shooters that will be in the lineup tomorrow.”
Prior to its victory in 2009, WVU had lost six straight to Alaska, dating back to 1994.
WVU’s history with the Buckeyes is more one-sided, as the Mountaineers own a 37-0 all-time record, including a 4676-4570 victory at the onset of the 2010-11 season. OSU plays host to this year’s NCAA Championships on March 9-10, at Converse Hall and French Field House.
“I think it’s crucial to see where you’re going to be in the postseason,” Hammond explains. “Only our two seniors have shot at Ohio State before, so to get this experience before the championships is really good.
“We also need one more road score to put toward our season average (to qualify for the national championships), so we’re going to be very conscious of our scores Sunday.”
Junior Petra Zublasing, the team’s top shooter with a 1185.43 combined score season average, will sit out Friday’s match due to a lingering knee issue; she is expected to compete at OSU.
The Mountaineers enter tomorrow’s match on a seven-match win streak. WVU most recently opened its spring season with a 4691-4554 victory over visiting Akron on Jan. 14. WVU earned the win in both guns, with Zublasing finishing first overall (1186) and in air rifle (597) and smallbore (589).
WVU’s air rifle score against the Zips was a season high, with four Mountaineers registering personal-best scores.
“I think the team was really focused last weekend,” Hammond says. “I think what really stood out was the progress that the freshmen have all made. They had a number of personal bests between them. The depth that this team possesses was really great to see.”
The Nanooks most recently earned a pair of wins against The Citadel, defeating the men’s team, 4664-4401, and the women’s team, 4664-4075, on Jan. 17. The squad is in action today at Navy.
The Buckeyes (5-3) have their first shoulder-to-shoulder matches of the spring season this weekend. OSU will play host to No. 4 Army on Saturday before shooting against the Mountaineers on Sunday.
Fans wishing to follow the Mountaineers from home this weekend can find links for live scores at www.MSNsportsNET.com.