LEXINGTON, Ky. (8/6/13) – Following its second consecutive runner-up finish since taking home the NCAA Championship in 2011, the University of Kentucky rifle team and head coach Harry Mullins have completed its 2013-14 schedule, it was announced Tuesday.
The Wildcats will return two All-America honorees from the 2012-13 season in senior Emily Holsopple and sophomore Connor Davis. Davis, named air rifle first team All-America last year, posted the team’s second-best air rifle average as a freshman, averaging 592.1. Holsopple boasted a 583.4 smallbore average and 587.3 air rifle average in her junior campaign.
Kentucky opens the season Oct. 19 at home, hosting conference-foe Ole Miss. The Wildcats traveled to Oxford, Miss., in 2012-13 and took last season’s contest with the Rebels 4670-4611. UK hosts North Carolina State and Memphis the following weekend, with the Wolfpack coming to town Oct. 25 and the Tigers visiting Lexington Oct. 27.
“I think starting out with Ole Miss is going to be a challenge out of the gate, we’re going to need to be ready from day one,” UK head coach Harry Mullins said. “With our first three matches being conference contests, we’re going to have nearly half of our conference schedule finished in October so those first matches will be important.”
The Wildcats hit the road to kick off November, traveling to Fort Worth, Texas, to face TCU in their first road contest. After starting the season 6-0, the Horned Frogs handed Kentucky its first loss in the 2012-13 season. UK will return home the following weekend to face GARC-newcomer Navy, before heading to Alaska to wrap up the fall season vs. Alaska-Fairbanks Nov. 23-24.
“TCU should be an exciting test for us as our first road trip,” Mullins said. “They are one of the premiere programs in our sport and always deliver a top-level performance. With Navy entering the GARC, we’ve added an additional challenging conference match. Navy has always had a solid program but their program is taking another step forward as they enter the GARC and bring in a strong recruiting class.
“The trip to Alaska will present a unique challenge for us. Traveling over 3,000 miles will cause our athletes to have to prepare in a different situation while facing a strong opponent in Alaska-Fairbanks. They finished last season strong and I expect they’ll continue that momentum into this season.”
Kentucky opens the spring season on the road, traveling to Columbus, Ohio, to face the Ohio State Buckeyes Jan. 11. UK will return to the road the following weekend, facing Murray State Jan. 18 and Army Jan. 19 in West Point, N.Y.
“Our spring slate doesn’t get any easier as we open with Ohio State in January,” Mullins said. “The Withrow Invitational is our only invitational of the season but it is going to be a challenge. I think everyone is going to come down for it since Murray State is hosting the NCAAs.”
Nebraska and West Virginia round out the schedule for Kentucky, with the Cornhuskers coming to town on Feb. 2. The Wildcats head to Morgantown, W. Va., Feb. 8 to face the defending champion Mountaineers in the last regular-season contest.
“With (Nebraska head coach) Stacy (Underwood) leading Nebraska we know that they are always going to deliver a high-quality product,” Mullins said. “Rounding out the year at West Virginia will probably be our greatest challenge as they will most likely enter the season ranked No. 1. They bring back some strong performers from last year’s championship team and always put up a high number.”
Kentucky will host an NCAA Qualifier Feb. 22-23 before heading to Oxford for the Great America Rifle Conference Championships March 1-2. The NCAA Championships will be March 15-16 in Murray, Ky.
“We’ve got a very tough schedule. Pretty much every team we compete against, I assume, will be ranked in the top 15,” Mullins said. “This schedule will test us but I think our athletes will be prepared to handle the test and I think it will prepare us for the postseason.
“I expect there to be a lot of parity around the country this year. Normally there tends to be one or two dominant teams that everyone is chasing but I don’t expect that to be the case this year and that’s exciting for the sport.”
With the loss of six seniors after the 2012-13 season, including the smallbore and air rifle average leader Henri Junghänel, Kentucky will look for new faces to step up and incoming freshman to make an impact.
“We’ve had some great performances this summer from people that haven’t normally been in the lineup and we’re looking forward to them stepping up and performing this year,” Mullins said. “We’re excited about the freshman class coming in and expect some contributions from them immediately.”
Information provided by William Kindred (UK Athletics)
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