This Saturday the Racers will take on the team standing between them and returning to the NCAA tournament. Ranked ninth, the Jacksonville State University Gamecocks could return to their old
tradition of defeating Murray State in the OVC.
But not if the Racers have anything to say about it.
Already this semester the Racers have posted two of their highest scores of the season, but with only two matches left before the OVC Championship, there’s not much time left to raise their average score before the NCAA qualifier or improve before the conference championship.
Just a few days before classes started the Racers took on the University of Memphis and Nebraska University taking Memphis with a score of 4640 and Nebraska with a score of 4633.
“It was our first match back after the break and we came out shooting just about where we ended the fall,” Head Coach Alan Lollar said. “We are going to need to get better. The competition this year is tough and it’s going to be a fight to get into the field of eight for the NCAA Championships.”
Even better news for the young team, several freshmen shooters had a promising match against Memphis.
Kelsey Emme shot a 580 smallbore and a 588 air rifle and Kristen Moyer shot a 585 air rifle.
Two days later the Racers managed another win and their second best score of the season, this time against Nebraska and with a slightly different squad.
“We shuffled the lineup a little bit. We’re giving some other people a chance,” Lollar said. “Mikey and Kirsten moved into squading spots for the first time in their career. Mikey had a solid day and Kirsten had a really good day in air rifle with a 591. Everybody worked hard and we improved our qualifying average.”
“Smallbore was a little lower than we want, but overall we beat our best home score, so I’m pretty happy with it,” Emme said. “I feel like we’ve come back pretty well. We just have to keep improving.”
The question now is whether those changes to the line up will be enough or if Jacksonville will take back their OVC title. Thus far this season the Gamecocks are ranked just one spot above the Racers with an average score of only nine points higher than the Racers.
“I think as long as we keep having good days and as long as we keep working hard we’ll make it,” Emme said. “It’ll be tough but we’ll make it.”
However the average of the top three scores is only half of the picture. The other half is the NCAA qualifier meaning that the Racers are far from down and out, especially if they continue to improve as they always have.
“We’ve got some work to do,” Lollar said. “There’s a lot of competition to get into the NCAA’s this year. There’s also a lot of competition within the OVC so we’re going to have to work hard if we’re going to do anything at the end of the year.”
Their next opportunity to improve will be against the team that stands to take them out at the knees.
“Jacksonville State is really tough as always,” Lollar said. “They’re doing a good job down there with a young team. We’re always shooting against our best, but it’s always good to see them. The conference rivalry helps bring out the best in both of us.”
The Racers return home next Saturday for their annual Withrow Invitational which will begin at 8 a.m. at Pat Spurgin Rifle Range.