With only the OVC Championship left before the NCAA qualifier, the Racers must improve their regular season average this weekend if they hope for a chance at the national stage.
This weekend the Racers shot a 4634 at the Withrow Invitational, their second highest score of the season. Regardless, the regular season half of the Racers’ qualifying score still falls tenth after Jacksonville State, meaning that without the qualifying score factored in, there may not be an OVC teams represented at the NCAA Championship at all.
The more immediate problem, however, is that Jacksonville State is consistently shooting better than Murray State, making it hard to imagine the Gamecocks doing anything other than reclaiming their former title of OVC Champions.
Though they remain just outside the NCAA’s and behind JSU, Head Coach Alan Lollar said that the Racers’ performance this weekend features much to be praised, but acknowledged that JSU and Nebraska University, ranked 12, did as well.
“We shot about like we’ve been shooting which was good,” Lollar said. “We were solid. Consistency is a big thing and we’ve been that. Jacksonville shot another really good score and Nebraska shot the best they have all year. I kidded all of them that I’m going to have to find a way to make Murray State a little bit more uncomfortable because people seem to enjoy coming here and shooting their best.”
Despite the numbers, and despite the rising pressure, the Racers say they feel prepared for the OVC’s.
“I think they’re ready,” Lollar said. “We’ve been pulling toward this week for a while. It’s what we’re training for. Knowing that we’re going to meet those OVC teams is always a motivator. I think we’re focused on the right things. I think we’re training the right way. I think we have the right expectation of ourselves, and I’m looking forward to a really nice weekend.”
Furthermore, Lollar said that the numbers of other teams is a fundamentally useless part of the upcoming match to focus on.
“If we spend a lot of time worrying about other teams then we’re not worried about the right thing,” Lollar said. “If it’s a weekend that someone comes in and shoots lights out then there’s nothing we can do about it. If rifle shooters started blocking shots we’d have a lot of blood on the range. So there’s no way we can stop them from doing their best on any given day but they can’t stop us either.”
Regardless, other teams, both in the OVC and in the NCAA, will be a fight for Murray State to defeat.
“It’s a very competitive year,” Lollar said. “There are several teams that are doing well. It should all come down to about six or seven teams that are trying to get three shots and it’ll all come down qualifying day. All those teams are going to be within ten points or so of each other come the end of the year so that order can completely change top to bottom depending on qualifying day.”
However for freshman shooter Kelsey Emme, other teams are just one more thing standing between getting her team to the NCAA’s.
“I would love it,” Emme said. “I love the team this year and we have three people leaving and I would just love to have those people get a memorable send off. I think they deserve it. They’ve worked really hard, just as hard as the rest of us.”