The West Virginia University rifle team won their first Great American Rifle Conference title Saturday, and now, with that behind them, they are looking toward postseason.
“We want to make sure we keep the momentum and refocus. We have three more matches that we’ll just take one match at a time and keep moving forward,” said head coach Jon Hammond.
The Mountaineers are entering postseason as the No.1 team in the country.
“We definitely happy where we are, and we’ll just continue to work hard and work on the things we need to improve,” Hammond said. “I think that’s a good way to stay grounded as we go forward.”
This is the first time since 2010 the WVU rifle team won the GARC conference title. They defeated Kentucky, a team who won the conference title three years in a row, 4,702-4,688 Saturday to do so.
Many different people will tell you it is nearly impossible to win consecutive national titles, but the WVU rifle team’s history said otherwise.
From 1988-1993, WVU dominated the national championships – winning a record six in a row.
Hammond said he believes his team can win a consecutive national title.
“I think we’re shooting some of the best scores in the country, and that will always give us a chance to beat any team. These guys have worked extremely hard this year. I think we have a lot of depth on this team so not just our top five, but our sixth, seventh, eighth shooters could all be competitive on any team,” Hammond said.
Although the biggest competition is the national championship March 14, there are two matches standing in their way.
The Mountaineers scored a national and season-best air rifle mark Saturday, but they were defeated in smallbore for the second match in a row. Kentucky outshot the Mountaineers 2,324-2,320, and Alaska-Fairbanks defeated the Mountaineers 2,332-2,348.
Hammond said his team needs to focus on smallbore and said preparing for postseason is a little different than how they would prepare for a regular-season match.
“When it gets to postseason, it’s less volume training, not really making any big changes with techniques. We are trying to replicate more match environments, so we’ll have a few more practice matches and hopefully get them shooting a little head-to-head in practice,” Hammond said.
Sophomore Patrick Sunderman earned his personal-best mark in smallbore in the regular season finale against Kentucky on Saturday.
Sunderman said finishing the season No. 1 is an honor, but it doesn’t mean much when you get into post-season.
“I think some guys look at the scores and rankings, but it’s a new season now and we have three more matches to go,” Sunderman said.