The No. 1 West Virginia University rifle team (8-0, 6-0 GARC) is shooting its best marks of the season when it counts most.“Many of the guys have been through this for a couple years already, and they know how intense this part of the season gets. I think they certainly all buy into what we’re here for, this part of the season,” said head coach Jon Hammond.
After weeks at No. 3 on the College Rifle Coaches Association Poll, the Mountaineers have finally claimed the top spot for the first time since Oct. 31, 2013. The move up comes after consecutive weeks of top shooting marks from the Mountaineers.
Future WVU opponents Kentucky and Alaska-Fairbanks dropped back to the No. 2 and No. 3 spots, respectively.
Along with their rise to the top, the shooters are becoming more and more consistent at home and on the road.
The rifle team is earning top marks this semester, cracking 4,700 twice for two weeks in a row. The Mountaineers first cracked 4,700 in their first match of the spring season.
WVU dominated NC State in their spring season opener, beating the Wolfpack 4,707-4,604. Maren Prediger and Ziva Dvorsak took the top spots in air rifle and smallbore.
WVU has an added threat this semester with its addition of Ziva Dvorsak. The junior has given depth to both smallbore and air rifle. Although Dvorsak wasn’t recruited for her smallbore experience, her marks are giving the Mountaineers some of their top smallbore scores of the season.
“I think Ziva (Dvorsak) surprised herself with how well she has shot in smallbore,” Hammond said.
The rifle team earned their highest mark of the season and a nation’s-best of 4,710 at Murray State for the Winthrow Invitational last weekend. The Mountaineers were led by junior Maren Prediger’s 598 mark in air rifle. The aggregate score wasn’t the only season-best mark the Mountaineers earned. WVU earned a season-best 2,378 in air rifle. Sophomore Garrett Spurgeon finished second for WVU with a season-best 587 mark.
The rifle team’s peak comes at the right time with post season competition around the corner. WVU will compete at the NCAA qualifiers Feb. 22, but before they begin postseason, the Mountaineers have two very tough rivals awaiting them.
WVU is still undefeated with two matches remaining in the regular season. The last two also happen to be the toughest for the Mountaineers.
“When we saw it on the schedule, we knew it would be tough. It’s going to be tough. I mean they are two of the best, but there (is) no doubt this team can do it,” said redshirt freshman Jean Pierre-Lucas.
WVU will play its final two matches of the regular season at home against Alaska-Fairbanks Thursday and Kentucky Saturday.