While the COVID-19 pandemic has affected all college athletics over the past year, the West Virginia rifle team has returned to the range and is continuing to dominate the sport.
After earning a preseason ranking of No. 1, the Mountaineers have dropped to No. 4. However, this was due to the team having one set of scores, while the top three teams have multiple scores.
The Mountaineers, led by head coach Jon Hammond, have started the 2021 season with three consecutive wins against Akron and Ohio State — beating the Buckeyes twice — and sweeping both disciplines in all three matches.
Even with COVID-19 and taking a semester off from competition, the Mountaineers continue to dominate on the shooting range, especially with such a young team. The team consists of only two upperclassmen, with four freshmen and three sophomores. A young team but a team with a lot of depth.
“We’re excited about this team,” Hammond said. “One thing that strikes me is we have a lot of depth, possibly more depth than we’ve had for quite a long time. I have no idea who our counting five will be at the end of the year, which is great. I think all 10 athletes we have on the roster have the potential to be All-Americans.”
Freshman Molly McGhin stands out as she scored first overall in her debut against Akron while also placing second in the smallbore. In her next match, she took first in the air rifle. Other freshmen alongside her such as Becca Lamb and Tal Engler have been putting up respectable scores as well.
Despite strong freshmen performances, Hammond looks to his upperclassmen to lead the team. Senior Sarah Osborn and juniors Verena Zaisberger and Jared Eddy are seen as the leaders on this team.
“Leadership is super important for any team,” Hammond said. “We lean on the older ones to set the example and to pass information and knowledge down to the younger ones and be a guide as it were on a daily basis. I think they did a good job of that last semester and helping provide and promote the right team culture and atmosphere in bringing the team together.”
The team relies on the veterans to be an example and pass on knowledge and to be a guide for the underclassmen. They help promote the team culture. With experience under their belt, with shooting more college matches, it is important for them to set the standards for what the WVU rifle team is all about.
With West Virginia’s most recent match being at Ohio State, the team got to shoot at the spot of the NCAA Qualifying Match, which will take place on Feb. 20. With having already shot in Columbus, Ohio, this season, the Mountaineers should be ready to go come February.