Preseason No. 2 Rifle Opens Season
Oct. 12, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Following a second-place overall finish and second consecutive smallbore national championship in 2011-12, the University of Kentucky rifle team opens the 2012-13 season at Nebraska Saturday morning.
The preseason No. 2 team opens the season against a 2-0 Nebraska squad that has already defeated North Carolina State (4635 – 4582) and Alaska-Fairbanks (4641-4641) in a tiebreaker decided by the total number of center shots. Nebraska’s early wins have shot them up to No. 4 in the Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association poll.
“It’s always exciting to start the year,” UK head coach Harry Mullins said. “We wait for this from the last shot at the NCAA Championship. From a coach’s standpoint, you always love to go out and compete. We are starting a week or two earlier than we normally do but for the most part I am excited to go ahead and put ourselves to the test and see which direction we are going. The team has put in a lot of effort so far, a lot of sweat equity. Obviously we’re going to have to put in a lot more between now and March.”
The Wildcats traveled 10 players to Lincoln, Neb., with the starting lineup featuring freshman Connor Davis, junior Emily Holsopple, sophomore Elijah Ellis, senior Stacy Wheatley and senior Henri Junghänel. Holsopple finished her sophomore year with a team-high scoring average in smallbore and air rifle, 583.6 and 591.9 respectively. Junghänel finished seventh in smallbore at the 2012 NCAA Championship while leading the team in air rifle and finishing the event with 585 points.
“The first match is always testy,” Mullins said. “Connor being a freshman in the starting five and Elijah Ellis in the top five as well, they’ve been performing well in practice and I’m looking forward to them stepping out there. Overall it should be a good performance, we’re looking for our performance to match up with the numbers and if it doesn’t then obviously we’re going to need to put in even more work but I think we’re prepared.”
Nebraska is led by first-year head coach and former Kentucky assistant Stacy Underwood. Underwood assisted Mullins and the UK rifle program from 2007-12, before leaving to become the head coach at her alma mater in May. The Wildcats were 48-8 during Underwood’s tenure, including winning the 2011 NCAA Championship.
“I don’t know if words can describe how neat it really is for us to come up here and face Stacy,” Mullins said. “Last time we came up here we were competing against her so it’s been a while since we’ve been here. It’s a good atmosphere, the people are friendly. It’s neat to see what she has done with the program and see her get the program going in the direction that she and the administration are looking for. I’m very proud of her but as head coach to head coach we are going to compete against her. I’m excited for her starting out the season 2-0. This is our first conference match so we are going to have to bring our A-game to walk away with a win.
“They’re going to be a force to be reckoned with in the future, if not this weekend. They are a rising program. I feel very confidently that she has the skills to get this team to qualify for the NCAA Championships. It’s going to be a good match but I’m proud of her more than anything else. It’s always real special when you get to go back to your alma mater and get to put that work into a program you used to be a part of, having that opportunity is very rare.”
The match will begin Oct. 13 at 8 a.m., with live stats available at huskers.com.