MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The No. 3-ranked West Virginia University rifle team shoots for its second Great American Rifle Conference (GARC) regular-season title in three years, as it plays host to two conference opponents this weekend at the WVU Rifle Range.
The Mountaineers (9-1, 4-0 GARC) line up against No. 2 Kentucky (9-1, 4-0 GARC) on Friday, Feb. 3, and against NC State (25-9, 0-5 GARC) on Feb. 5. Both matches will begin at 8 a.m. and are expected to go into the afternoon.
Friday’s match with the Wildcats, the reigning NCAA champions, will determine the GARC regular-season champion, as both squads enter undefeated. The Mountaineers own six conference regular-season titles.
“I think we’re trying to stay structured within our goals for the year, and we know we need to take one match at a time and build up to championship season,” explains Mountaineer coach Jon Hammond. “While I know there is extra incentive for Friday’s match and that this team wants to win, at the end of the day we need to treat it as just a regular match.”
The rivalry between WVU and UK runs deep, as the two squads have battled for the conference’s top position over the last four seasons. Following the Wildcats’ 2009 sweep of the regular-season and tournament titles, the same year the Mountaineers won the national championships, WVU laid claim to both in 2010. The squads split the titles in 2011, with UK earning the regular-season crown with a 4696-4680 victory, in Lexington, Ky., on Feb. 5; WVU successfully defended its tournament championship with a 4704-4672 win, on Feb. 27, in Oxford, Miss.
“We’ve had a really good rivalry with Kentucky over the years, and our matches against them have determined the last few regular-season champions,” Hammond says. “We always compete strongly with them. We have been two of the top teams in the country, and that intensifies the rivalry. Our team knows that it has to shoot well against UK; it’s going to be a touch match.”
WVU leads the all-time series, 14-7.
The Mountaineers are 12-0 all-time against the Wolfpack and trumped NCSU last season, 4657-4498.
Of note, junior All-American Petra Zublasing will miss both matches this weekend, as she will be representing the Italian National Team at the Rocky Mountain Rifle Championships, in Colorado Springs, Colo.
WVU looks to get back to its winning ways after suffering its first defeat of the season at No. 1 TCU last week, a 4701-4669 decision. The squad was swept in both guns, with the Horned Frogs winning air rifle, 2363-2358, and smallbore, 2338-2311.
The Wildcats earned a 4635-4566 win over Morehead State on Jan. 29, while the Wolfpack shot a school-record 4596, in a third-place finish against Ole Miss (4640), Air Force (4610) and The Citadel (4456).