MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Behind a dynamic air rifle performance, the Kentucky rifle team posted a 4680-4650 win over West Virginia in a matchup of the only two undefeated teams in the conference play, on Friday at WVU Rifle Range.
Kentucky (10-1, 5-0 Great American Rifle Conference) now is guaranteed a share of the 2011-12 GARC regular-season championship and now owns the tiebreaker over West Virginia. UK concludes its regular season on Saturday in Morgantown, facing N.C. State. A win over N.C. State on Saturda would secure the seventh conference title in UK rifle history and the Wildcats second consecutive unbeaten conference season."
"It is exciting," UK head coach Harry Mullins said about clinching the conference title. "To win this conference match is great, especially facing such a great program in West Virginia. But I don't think anyone on this team is focused on (clinching the regular-season championship) or looking into that detail now. Everyone is focused on coming out tomorrow and putting on another team effort to finish the season 6-0 in conference play."
West Virginia joined UK as one of the only two undefeated teams remaining in conference play entering the match. In a showdown of the top teams in the league, the Wildcats posted a 30-point win over the Mountaineers.
"Overall it was a good performance," Mullins said. "To come away with a win on the road against a great team is great. Our first team hadn't competed in two weeks and they had to come out with the pressure on at a tough opponent's range. We made some mistakes but I was happy with how the team worked. They really brought the effort and intensity to get the win. These matches with WVU have always been good, sometimes it will be a high scoring match and sometimes the teams have down scoring outputs. There is a huge sense of competition in this matchup every year."
UK, the defending NCAA Champions, won on the strength of its air rifle performance, as Ethan Settlemires posted a team-leading 593, with Henri Junghänel and Emily Holsopple following with a 591. Heather Greathouse charted a 590 and Stacy Wheatley finished with a 589.
The Wildcats finished the smallbore portion with a 2315 team score, led by a 580 by Junghänel, who had a 580. Emily Holsopple and Greathouse each had a 579, with Settlemires (577) and Wheatley (574) rounding out the starting lineup.
"Our smallbore scores were down a bit and we wanted them to be higher but we are excited to get back out tomorrow," Mullins said. "For the team to respond after some down scores to start the match in smallbore shows their resilience. They stayed through their shot plans. They worked their tails off throughout the match and finished strong in air rifle."
Kentucky traveled its full roster to Morgantown, with Elijah Ellis leading the second squad with a 579 in smallbore. James Jasis (575), Katie Fretts (574), Jonathan Pinker (574), Ed Ryznar (570), Ethan Marne (567), Cody Manning (553) and John Sutton (553) rounding out the smallbore competitors.
"Our second relay was great, (Katie Fretts) Frettsy and (Elijah) Ellis really shot well, along with (Jonathan) Pinkel and James (Jasis)," Mullins said. "Overall it was a good team effort and that is the thing I like the most. It isn't one or two people having huge scores or carrying the team, it is a huge team effort every day."
In air rifle, Fretts led the second squad with a 582, as Ellis (580), Marne (575), Manning (574), Sutton (573), Sutton (573) all competing in air gun.
UK will face N.C. State to conclude the regular season on Saturday. UK will host the NCAA Qualifier on Feb. 18 at UK's Barker Hall.