FORT WORTH, Texas -- After falling behind by 14 points after smallbore, the No. 2 Kentucky rifle team mounted a rally in air rifle but suffered its first loss of the season at No. 1 TCU, 4703-4694, with the Horned Frogs using a school-record team score to win their nation-leading 26th consecutive regular-season match, on Saturday at the TCU Rifle Range.
“From a wins and loss standpoint you are always disappointed when the team losses,” UK head coach Harry Mullins said after the match. “But we shot a 4694 (overall team score) and we still felt like we left a lot out there. We just didn’t have anything in smallbore and TCU had two 590’s, which are huge numbers. It was a close match all the way through and overall our performances were good, we just didn’t get the numbers we needed.”
Kentucky (8-1, 4-0 Great American Rifle Conference) suffered its first loss of the season in its defense of the 2010-11 NCAA Title, which the Wildcats won with a NCAA-record 4700 team score a year ago. Earlier in the year, during a win over Memphis, UK broke its national championship and NCAA-record performance of the 4700 total score with a 4711.
“It was a very good match,” Mullins said of the loss to TCU. “Very close. We learned a lot from this. It is a great test to go out into a different environment against a top team like TCU. If we are smart and we learn from it and move on then it will be a great experience. It is still disappointing to lose. I am not disappointed in the kids, just disappointed for them. When we shoot at 4690-plus, that is something hard to be upset with. Now with two straight weeks with at least a 4693 that is pretty impressive and we still have a lot left to give.”
UK entered the match with non-league foe TCU off to an 8-0 start to the year, with its only loss in the last two years coming at the hands of the Horned Frogs last season.
“TCU is a great team,” Mullins said. “We just needed to come up with a few more points. That 4703 for them was a school record. It took a record-breaking score for them to beat us.
“As close as TCU, West Virginia and us are this year, no one is going to sweep. Those are three really good teams that are really close. Today we just had a bunch of 9.9’s that didn’t turn into 10s. That is millimeters. We had those fall our way when we won the national championship. This will give us something to work with and help us meet our ultimate goal.”
With the win, TCU improves to 7-0 and extends its NCAA-leading regular-season match winning streak to 26 games. TCU was led by dynamic performances from Sarah Beard and Sarah Scherer, with the duo each shooting 590’s in smallbore and Scherer charting a staggering 597 (out of 600) in air rifle and Beard a 592. The 4703 team score for TCU is a new school record for the Horned Frogs.
In smallbore, UK was led by Ethan Settlemires, who posted a 583, with Emily Holsopple charting a 582 and Henri Junghäel and Heather Greathouse each contributing a 581. Heather Greathouse had a 581 with Stacy Wheatley (567) and Katie Fretts (565) finishing the day for the Wildcats in smallbore.
In air rifle, Settlemires finished with a team-high 595, with Junghänel (594) and Holsopple (592) helping spark the Wildcats comeback after falling behind in smallbore. Wheatley finished with a 585, with Fretts (587) and Greathouse (582) rounding out the UK lineup.
“We are really starting to solidify our air gun,” Mullins said. “I was really proud of Stacy Wheatley to finish strong in air gun after a slow start.”
Kentucky returns to its rugged road schedule in the spring semester with a match at Murray State on Friday, before hosting Morehead State on Sunday at UK’s Barker Hall. UK will then face a tough test with a Feb. 4-5 trip to Morgantown, W.Va., to take on 2008-09 NCAA Champion West Virginia in addition to N.C. State to conclude the regular-season.