LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Paced by a career outing from junior Stacy Wheatley in air rifle, the No. 1 Kentucky rifle team posted a 4680-4654 season-opening win over Great American Rifle Conference foe and ninth-ranked Ole Miss, on Friday at UK's Barker Hall.
The Wildcats fought off a talented Ole Miss squad that equaled the school-record with its 4654 total team score, paced by Kelly Stankey's 588 in air rifle and a 584 in smallbore. The Ole Miss team score equaled the 4654 total the Rebels tallied in their meeting with UK in Oxford, Miss., in 2010-11.
"It is always nice to start off the conference with a win, especially with some tough competition," UK head coach Harry Mullins said. "Ole Miss is a good team, they tied their school record that they shot against us last year. We bring the best out in them because we are SEC foes, which is neat to see. It was a good win, especially being our first match. We are off to a good start. A win is always good and I am excited for the kids, they really worked hard. They are being rewarded for their hard work. They need to keep working to hit the level we want to stay at."
A native of Louisville, Ky., Wheatley turned in a career outing in air rifle, firing a 592 to lead the team. UK also got stellar outings from Emily Holsopple, who charted a 590 in air rifle, with Henri Junghänel (589), Ethan Settlemires (585) and Heather Greathouse (584) rounding out the starting lineup, with Katie Fretts fired a 589 in air rifle.
"Stacy had the performance of this match," Mullins said. "She was very diligent in air rifle and even in smallbore. She worked as hard as she could and for her to come out and get a 592 out of the gate is so impressive. I was proud of her. She has been working very hard to do that in competition. Hopefully this gives her the confidence to continue to do this. She is that type of shooter. She is a top-notch air gun shooter and today was great for her to come out and show that against good competition. I am very excited for her, especially with her background being a Kentucky high school shooter who is learning to get to this level. I am excited to see her get to that level and continue to grow."
In the smallbore portion of the match, UK posted a 2324-2307 win over the Rebels. UK got team-high performances from Greathouse and Settlemires, who each fired a 582. Junghänel charted a 581, while Holsopple rounded out the starting lineup with a 579. Wheatley and Fretts also competed in smallbore, with Fretts tallying a 574 and Wheatley a 573.
Kentucky will return to action on Sunday hosting GARC foe, No. 12 Nebraska at Barker Hall.
"I want to see some good performances on Sunday," Mullins said. "We want some good numbers. We performed smart the most part today, had some hiccups and made some mistakes but we are getting our match legs under our feet. We always want to do as good or better as we did the previous match. But it would be nice to see the intensity amped up. Our motto is get better every day, so we need to keep progressing."
In the afternoon session, several UK shooters made their collegiate debuts, including Cody Manning's 585 in air rifle and Jonathan Pinkel's career-best 584 in air rifle. Ethan Marne finished with a 570 in smallbore and a 566 in air rifle. Elijah Ellis added a 580 in air rifle in his collegiate debut, also totaling a 570 in smallbore, with Pinkel (571) and Manning (558) adding their smallbore totals.
"Really proud of Pinker's personal record in air rifle and Ellis hung in there real good," Mullins said. "We had two freshmen break 1150 today, which is real solid considering it is their first collegiate match. Another freshman with a great performance was Cody Manning. He is working real hard and did a good job to come out with a 585.
Ed Ryznar finished with a 576 in air rifle and a 565 in smallbore. James Jasis finished with a 569 in smallbore and a 567 in air rifle.
UK Assistant Coach Stacy Underwood Post-Match Quotes
"Today was a confirmation for our team that when they work hard within our training system they will see good performances. At the beginning of the year, Coach Mullins and I talked to them about the level we expect them to perform and I think it was a dream for most of them to shoot a match at that level. But today it became a reality and the best part is they have only been here for six weeks.
"Although we weren't up to what I'd like to be in air rifle, Stacy Wheatley had a great performance. She jumped a performance hurdle and is starting to find her rhythm in air rifle. The team smallbore score was a great way to start the season. Each of the squaded members felt like they had some areas that could be addressed to bring some higher numbers.
"Beyond all the great performances today I am most excited about the team. We have a group of team members who truly care about one another on and off the range. When you are around them you can feel their energy and it gets you motivated. I think at the end of the season team unity is the difference between just competing and exceeding."