UK Rifle Faces Tough 2016-17 Slate



LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky rifle team has another challenging road ahead this season as it looks to improve upon its recent elite NCAA and Great American Rifle Conference finishes. The Wildcats released their schedule for the 2016-17 season.

“This year’s schedule will be one of the toughest that we’ve faced in the past few years,” head coach Harry Mullins said. “The parity in our sport has elevated to a point where the margin of error has decreased even more. I feel that we are going to see a lot of great scores this year from a number of teams because the talent in college rifle is deep and spread over numerous teams. 

“Coming off an Olympic year usually ignites many people’s desire in pursuit of their goals when it is right out there in front of them.”

The Wildcats will face five of the top eight teams that they met at the NCAA Championships last season along with several others that sit just outside that mark. 

For the first matches scheduled on Oct. 8, the team will be split into two teams and compete in two different matches with one taking place in Lexington at the Buell Armory against North Georgia and the other in Oxford, Mississippi, for the Ole Miss Invitational. 

“We are doing something different,” Mullins said. “This gives the entire team an opportunity to compete as a member of a squad for the first match of the season. Both matches will be very competitive.”

The following weekend Kentucky travels to Annapolis, Maryland, to take on the U.S. Naval Academy, who the Wildcats won every matchup against last season, on Oct. 15 for their first GARC match of the season. 

“Navy showed resilience at the end of last season and had a great year recruiting,” Mullins said. “This will be a test for us right out of the gate entering conference play. I feel that our conference this year will be very strong. After watching the success of several teams toward the end of last year, if they can carry that into this season, then it will be a very tight race for the GARC Championship.” 

The Wildcats will take a weekend off and host Army on Oct. 29 to round out the month with another conference matchup before they host two more conference matches during the first weekend in November. An improved Akron team comes to town on Nov. 4 after Kentucky racked up three wins against the Zips last season, one came on Akron’s turf by a score of 4666-4618. On Sunday Nov. 6, Nebraska, an experienced team with a solid senior core that was also defeated multiple times by the Wildcats, will visit the Buell Armory. 

Kentucky concludes the fall portion of the season in the middle of November by traveling across the country to Fairbanks, Alaska for more conference competition against North Carolina State on the 18th and Alaska Fairbanks on the 19th. NC State handed Kentucky Rifle its first loss of the season last year, while the Wildcats came out victorious over UAF in Lexington.

“NC State had a great season ending with Lucas Kozeniesky making United States Olympic Team,” Mullins said. “Nebraska transfer Lauren Phillips, along with their recruiting class and the rest of their returners, will make a very strong team for the NCAA Championships this season. 

“UAF will have a new coach, but is still a very talented team. When we get together it is always a tight match and comes right down to the wire. They have a strong core group returning and will make a run at the NCAA Championships this season.”

In between the fall and spring and just after Thanksgiving, Coach Mullins will select a group to travel to Colorado Springs, Colo., for the Winter Air Rifle Championships, which is a three-day event where competitors are presented the opportunity to showcase their talents and be selected for matches against the U.S. Team in the spring.

The Wildcats will return to Oxford to begin 2017 and test their skills with a match against Ole Miss on Jan. 15 and Memphis the following day. The following weekend will showcase multiple elite teams at the Withrow Invitational in Murray, Kentucky, on Jan. 20. Murray State finished third at last season’s NCAA Championships with a score of 4690. 

Closing out the regular season will be none other than a home match at the Buell Armory with rival West Virginia on Feb. 11. The Mountaineers are defending NCAA and conference champions and have won the last four national titles. 

“Even though they lost a strong senior class, they have the returning Olympic Gold Medalist and NCAA smallbore and air rifle champion, Ginny Thrasher. Along with their recruiting class and returners, they will be the preseason top-ranked team in the country. This is always a very good match and looks to be so again this season.”

NCAA Qualifiers will be on Feb. 18 against Morehead State. Fifty percent of the qualifying score will come from this match, while the other half will be taken from the top-performing matches throughout the year. 

Following qualifiers, the Wildcats will travel to Akron for the GARC Championship. Akron hosted last year’s NCAA Championships, but this will be their first time hosting the conference championship. 

“This will be the first time we have shot the conference championships in a large setting like the field house,” Mullins said. “I think the team will bring their very best to this event and it should be exciting.” 

The NCAA Championships will be held March 10-12 and will feature the nation’s most elite teams, individuals, and overall talent. 

“I feel this season will be closer than ever before and if we do our jobs right, then we should be right in the middle of it.”

For the latest on the Kentucky rifle teamfollow @UKRifle handles on Facebook, Twitter and on the web at UKathletics.com

October

8

Ole Miss Invitational

Oxford, Miss.

8

North Georgia

Lexington, Ky.

15

Navy

Annapolis, Md.

29

Army

Lexington, Ky.

November

4

Akron

Lexington, Ky.

6

Nebraska

Lexington, Ky.

18

NC State

Fairbanks, Alaska

19

Alaska Fairbanks

Fairbanks, Alaska

January

14

Ole Miss

Oxford, Miss.

15

Memphis

Oxfrod, Miss.

20

Withrow Invitational

Murray,Ky.

29

Ohio State

Columbus, Ohio

February

11

WVU

Lexington, Ky.

18

NCAA Qualifier

Lexington, Ky.

25-26

GARC Championships

Akron, Ohio

March

10,11,12

NCAA Championships

Columbus, OH