The No. 5-ranked West Virginia University rifle team fell to No. 2 Alaska-Fairbanks, 4736-4744, on Friday evening at the E.F. Horton Rifle Range in Fairbanks, Alaska.
“We would have loved to have won today, but there were a lot of positives and good performances,” coach Jon Hammond said. “UAF shot an excellent match, and while we made it close, it wasn’t enough.”
The Nanooks and Mountaineers were only separated by five points in each discipline, with Alaska-Fairbanks claiming smallbore 2358-2353 and air rifle 2386-2383.
The match was led by West Virginia Senior Mary Tucker, who shot an 1191 overall, including a 594 in smallbore and a 597 in air rifle. The Sarasota, Florida, native is coming off the NCAA record setting performance in aggregate score with 1196 in her last match against then-ranked No. 11 NC State and tied the national record for smallbore score with 597.
Outside of Tucker, three additional Mountaineers finished inside the top 10 of the individual match leaderboard. Senior Malori Brown followed Tucker for WVU, finishing fourth with an aggregate score of 1189. Brown notched a 591 and 598 in smallbore and air rifle, respectively. Her aggregate and air rifle scores were good enough for a career high, while her 591 in smallbore tied her career best.
Junior Molly McGhin and senior Akihito Shimizu rounded out the Mountaineers in the top ten. McGhin finished sixth, shooting a 590 in smallbore and air rifle for an aggregate of 1180. Shimizu checked in with an aggregate score of 1180 as well, notching a 586 in smallbore and a 594 in air rifle. McGhin’s smallbore score set a new season high, tying her career best in the process.
Behind her was fifth-year senior Verena Zaisberger, who came in 11th place with an aggregate score of 1184. The Hohenems, Austria, native finished the match with a 585 in smallbore and a 599 in air rifle. Zaisberger led the air rifle discipline for the match and set a career best.
“We had some really good performances from Mary, Malori and Verena in air rifle and many others, so there’s a lot to build from, and we have another match tomorrow to test ourselves against some good teams,” coach Hammond said.
Juniors Matt Sanchez and Tal Engler, along with senior Cliasta Smoyer, earned spots 13, 14 and 15, respectively. Sanchez claimed 13th and finished the match with 582 points in smallbore and 597 points in air rifle, summing to a 1179 aggregate score. His 597 air rifle score tied his season best.
Engler followed Sanchez with an aggregate score of 1176. Engler tallied a 581 in smallbore and a 595 in air rifle. Smoyer rounded out West Virginia, taking 15th with an aggregate score of 1168, while shooting 574 in smallbore and 594 in air rifle.
“I think we can still be more disciplined overall, and we’ll work on that tomorrow,” coach Hammond said.
West Virginia continues in action in Alaska tomorrow, Saturday, Jan. 14, at Tanana Valley Sportsmen’s Association. The Mountaineers take on Alaska-Fairbanks, No. 3 Kentucky and No. Georgia Southern.