RIFLE TRAVELS TO MURRAY FOR WITHROW INVITE
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Winners of three consecutive matches, the Kentucky rifle team will return to action with an in-state trip to Murray, Ky., for the Withrow Invitational on Friday, hosted by Murray State at the Pat Spurgin Rifle Range.
“We are looking forward to a good performance,” Kentucky head coach Harry Mullins said. “We had a 4688 in Ole Miss. I’d like for that number to go up a little bit at Murray. It is a good facility. On the flip side of it, it is our third match within seven days so it is a test to see what fatigue does to us. We have trained a lot and we are ready for a good test.”
Kentucky (9-1, 5-0 Great American Rifle Conference) posted a season best score of 4688 in a win at Ole Miss in its last outing on Saturday, before charting a win at Memphis on Sunday. The Wildcats have three regular-season matches remaining before hosting the NCAA Qualifying round on Feb. 21-22 at Barker Hall.
Alson on hand at the Withrow Invitational will be No. 3 Jacksonville State, No. 9 Memphis, No. 15 UT Martin, No. 17 Ole Miss, No. 19 North Georgia, UTEP, UAB and Rose-Hulman.
“For the most part I’d just like to see us stay consistent,” Mullins said. “If we are going to make a championship run, we need to stay in the mid to high 4680’s and show ourselves that we are definitely that team that is striving to break 4700. The best teams in the country are breaking 4700 at this point in the season.
Kentucky was led in its last match by Elijah Ellis’ 594 and Heather Kirby’s 591 in air rifle. The Wildcats also got a 587 from Connor Davis in smallbore and a 579 from Kirby.
“We have to worry about what Kentucky does and how hard we work and see where we end up,” Mullins said. “It was a good feeling knowing that we shot that 4688, which moved us up back to third in the rankings, average wise.”
Kentucky’s average score for the 2014-15 season is 4672.2. The Wildcats’ road-average score is 4666.2.
“I am looking for some good things from our starters but also some of the other guys,” Mullins detailed. “Jenna Bethea had a 589 in air rifle in Memphis, a really good performance for a freshman. Billy (Azzinaro) is doing a good job, staying solid and starting to move up a little bit. Cody (Manning) had a 584 in smallbore. The key is to just elevate everybody and then we have to pick the five that are going to represent us at the end of the season.”
Kentucky will be facing Murray State, Memphis and Ole Miss for the second time each this season, and the Wildcats are 3-0 against those foes.
“That and the way the parity is in the country right now, qualifying for the NCAA Championships, that doesn’t guarantee anybody a spot,” Mullins said. “There are maybe one or two teams that are guaranteed a spot and that is West Virginia and Alaska, the rest of us have to show our work the last two or three matches and in the qualifier to make sure that we solidify position and can make a run at the championships. But it is going to take a lot of work. We can’t be complacent and think just because we are Kentucky it is going to fall into our laps, we are really going to have to dig down deep and work.”