MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – The No. 1-ranked West Virginia University rifle team mounted a strong comeback in air rifle but fell short today, losing 4704-4695, at No. 3 Kentucky, inside Baker Hall, in Lexington, Ky.
With the win, the Wildcats (10-1, 5-1 GARC) earn their third straight Great American Rifle Conference (GARC) regular-season title. UK’s team total is the highest score shot against WVU this year. The Mountaineers’ (10-1, 5-1 GARC) first loss of the season comes in their regular-season finale.
“Today definitely wasn’t our best day. We’re disappointed to lose, but it was a high-scoring contest against a good opponent,” says coach Jon Hammond. “We (WVU, TCU and Kentucky) are all capable of shooting high scores, and we all shoot similar scores; every day could be a different result. Overall, it wasn’t the worst result in the world, and we know now what we need to improve on.”
UK outshot WVU in this morning’s smallbore relay, 2343-2325. The lead was too much for the Mountaineers to overcome despite defeating the Wildcats in air rifle, 2370-2361.
Today’s title win is the Wildcats’ sixth, tying the Mountaineers’ conference-best mark. The loss puts WVU’s series advantage at 14-9.
Despite losing the last three regular-season titles to UK, WVU has bounced back each season, as the Mountaineers are the three-time reigning conference champions.
“There’s plenty of motivation for the GARC Championships now,” Hammond adds. “Everyone is motivated to keep working hard in practice because we know we’ll see UK again at the conference championships and at the NCAA Championships. We’re OK with today. You never want to lose a match, but we know we can improve and shoot a higher score.”
The Mountaineers’ counters for today’s shoulder-to-shoulder match were: senior Petra Zublasing
, sophomores Taylor Ciotola
, Meelis Kiisk
and Maren Prediger
, and freshman Garrett Spurgeon
Zublasing topped the field in both guns, shooting 596 (98-99-100-99-100-100) air rifle and 592 (199 prone, 196 standing, 197 kneeling) smallbore. The Appiano,Italy, native’s smallbore score was one shot short of tying her career-best mark.
Prediger finished just behind Zublasing in air gun, tying her season-best score of 595 for second place. Kiisk tied for fifth place with a score of 591, while Spurgeon shot 588 and finished ninth.
UK swept the four finishes behind Zublasing in smallbore. Freshman Patrick Sunderman
was the next Mountaineer on the board, shooting 581 and finishing sixth. Spurgeon and Kiisk tied for seventh place with 579 marks, while Ciotola shot 575 toward the team’s total.
Also of note, junior Chance Cover
shot a career-best 573 smallbore, while sophomore Thomas Kyanko
matched the school record with a 200 prone score.
Prior to meeting the Wildcats again at the GARC Championships, on Feb. 23-24, in Oxford, Miss., the Mountaineers will travel to Columbus, Ohio, for an NCAA Qualifying Match against Ohio State on Saturday, Feb. 16, at Converse Hall.