MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University Director of Athletics Oliver Luck announced today the 2012-13 rifle schedule, which features six home matches and a trip to 10-time NCAA champion Alaska-Fairbanks.
“The rifle team does not shy away from tough competition, and this year’s slate is no different,” says Luck. “I am excited to watch coach Jon Hammond and the Mountaineers navigate a schedule, which features past NCAA champions, as they pursue the program’s nation-best 15th national title.”
“This schedule isn’t overloaded, but it certainly isn’t quiet, either,” says seventh-year Mountaineer coach Jon Hammond. “There’s barely a weekend off, and we will still be busy. Our spring season has a few less matches, and this will help our focus for the NCAA Championships.”
The Mountaineers, winners of 14 national championships, last secured the NCAA title in 2009. For the first time in three years, this year’s roster is void of any holdovers from that championship run.
This year’s slate features three teams from the 2012 NCAA Championships field – runner-up Kentucky, third place Alaska-Fairbanks and fourth place Army. TCU won the 2012 national title, while WVU finished sixth.
The Mountaineers open their season on Oct. 7 in West Point, N.Y., with a shoulder-to-shoulder match against Army, a Great American Rifle Conference (GARC) foe. The squad then visits Ohio State on Oct. 13 before opening its home season at the WVU Rifle Range on Oct. 16 against GARC opponent Memphis.
The Mountaineers will stay home for a month and play host to Navy and GARC foes Ole Miss and NC State before closing out their fall schedule at Alaska-Fairbanks on Nov. 17-18.
“We haven’t traveled to Alaska since I have been with the team, and I have been looking to add this trip for awhile now,” says Hammond. “Alaska-Fairbanks is a great rival, and after all of their trips out to our range the last few seasons, we owe them a trip. There is a lot of history and tradition between these two squads, and I’m excited to take this team out there.”
Following a two-month winter break, the Mountaineers will return to the WVU Rifle Range on Jan. 19 with a shoulder-to-shoulder match against GARC opponent Nebraska. The team will then close its regular-season home schedule against Akron on Jan. 28 before traveling to GARC rival Kentucky on Feb. 2 for its regular-season finale.
The annual late-season match against the Wildcats is always one of the Mountaineers’ toughest, and as of late, the winner has been crowned the conference’s regular-season champion. WVU and UK, the 2011 NCAA champions, have developed a healthy rivalry, as the two squads have battled for the GARC’s top position each of the last four seasons. Following the Wildcats’ 2009 sweep of the regular-season and tournament titles, the same year the Mountaineers won the national championship, WVU laid claim to both in 2010. The squads split the titles in 2011 and 2012, with UK earning the regular-season crown both years and WVU winning its second and third straight conference titles.
“I think we like having this type of match so late in the season,” Hammond explains. “It is a good quality match to have prior to championship season.”
After shooting in an NCAA qualifying match on Feb. 16, the Mountaineers will compete for their fourth consecutive GARC title on Feb. 23-24, in Oxford, Miss. WVU is the only team to win three straight championships (1998-2000 and 2010-12); no squad has won four consecutive titles.
“We have really enjoyed shooting in Oxford, and we absolutely will be trying our best to win every match this season, especially in postseason,” Hammond says. “Winning a fourth straight GARC title will depend on each individual shooting their best; this will result in a great team score. Just like every year before, we will work our hardest to be ready to peak in the spring season.”
For the second straight season, the NCAA Championships will be held at Ohio State’s Converse Hall and French Field House on March 8-9. Three Mountaineers return with national championships experience – senior Petra Zublasing
, the reigning NCAA air rifle champion, and sophomores Thomas Kyanko
and Taylor Ciotola
“Ohio State hosted a great championship last season, and I’m glad we’ll have some familiarity with the range,” says Hammond. “We would have to be prepared for any range, but that comfort factor could be huge.”
WVU returns four National Rifle Association All-Americans – Zublasing, a 2012 London Summer Olympics participant, Kyanko, Ciotola and Meelis Kiisk
– from a team that went 12-2 overall and 5-1 in conference action.
The complete 2012-13 rifle schedule can be found HERE