MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – The No. 1-ranked West Virginia University rifle team closes out the regular season with two matches at the WVU Rifle Range this weekend.
The Mountaineers (8-0, 6-0 GARC) play host to No. 3 Alaska-Fairbanks on Thursday, Feb. 6, and Great American Rifle Conference (GARC) foe, No. 2 Kentucky, on Saturday, Feb. 8. It is the regular-season finale for all three teams.
Thursday’s match will begin at 12:30 p.m. Non-counters for the Mountaineers will shoot in the morning prior to official competition. Fans are invited to sit inside the range for the counting air rifle relay, set to begin at approximately 3 p.m.
Saturday’s match will start at 8 a.m., with the last relays scheduled for the afternoon. The competition determines the regular-season GARC champion. Kentucky has won four out of the last five titles, while WVU claimed its sixth title in 2010.
“I think both Alaska and Kentucky are some of our toughest competitors,” says coach Jon Hammond. “However, we’ve got good momentum and we’re performing well. We will treat them as we treat any other match.”
The Nanooks (9-0) and the Wildcats (9-2, 6-0 GARC) have held the top two spots in the rankings most of the season. They were knocked down last week when WVU earned the No. 1-spot for the second time this season.
“We have continued to improve and prepare over the past two weeks for these matches,” Hammond says. “They will be our biggest head-to-head matches yet, and they will definitely be challenging, but we just have to keep doing what we always do.”
The Mountaineers are averaging a 2362 air rifle mark and a 2322 smallbore score this season. Junior Maren Prediger
paces the Mountaineers in air rifle, averaging 595, while classmate Ziva Dvorsak
leads smallbore, averaging 587 through three matches.
Of note, sophomore Garrett Spurgeon
is averaging 584 in smallbore and 591 in air rifle.
Most recently, the Mountaineers shot at the Withrow Invitational at Murray State on Jan. 24. They shot a season- and nation-best 4710, placing first overall. The next day, they shot at then-No. 11 GARC foe Memphis and defeated the Tigers, 4690-4655.
Alaska most recently defeated The Citadel at home, 4693-4451. Kentucky last shot against No. 6 Nebraska and won, 4680-4659.
The Mountaineers currently hold an 8-6 all-time series advantage over the Nanooks and a 14-9 all-time record over the Wildcats.
“We’d rather have these challenging matches now than at the beginning of the season,” Hammond explains. “It’s sort of a continual wrap up toward the end of the season, and we can use them for our benefit and to test ourselves for the postseason.”