This weekend, after two years as reigning champions of the OVC, the Racers returned to their old tradition and came in second to Jacksonville State finishing with a cumulative score of 4,589 to the Gamecock’s 4,631.
However the Racers still have a chance at the NCAA’s if the upcoming qualifier goes their way.
“I think missing one of the two goals that we have every year will focus them a bit more firmly on the one they’ve still got a chance at,” Head Coach Alan Lollar said. “It’s absolutely feasible for us to get in. The other teams can all go shoot their average if they want to, and if we do what we can do we can still get in.”
For Murray State this season, feasible does not mean easy. Currently in 10th place, the Racers need to either improve their score, or for another team’s score to drop if they expect to make it to the NCAA Championship.
“We need help to get in because right now I believe we’re 18 points out of eighth place,” Lollar said. “That would mean that if everyone else shoots their average, we have to shoot 18 points better than them. If they all shoot their average we’re looking at having to shoot the best we shot last year. And we’re capable. We have that potential. The hard part is putting four scores together on one day.
“The other difficult part is that teams have to go down to five shooters that shoot both guns, and that’s going to change some scores. We’ve been using six or seven shooters this year, a lot of other people have, too. When you drop down to that you have to look at the makeup of that team and where you think you’re going to get the majority of your points. It basically becomes a game of dice.”
Though Lollar said he’d never wish a bad score on another team, he said he wants to make sure that his shooters are ready to take advantage of any opportunity opposing teams gave them at the championship match.
“It’s always a big match. Last year we shot better scores during the season, but it was still a big match,” Lollar said. “There were teams that went into qualifiers one of the eight and went out not in the championships. When the qualifier counts 50 percent of your score it’s a big deal. For us there’s not really a lot of pressure because we’re trying to get in. There are eight that if they shoot their average they’ll stay right where they are, probably. Four or five of those are within a few points of each other. We just want to be ready. If somebody opens the door and gives us an opportunity to slip in we want to shoot well enough to make a run for that.”
Despite losing their OVC title, Lollar said that his team is confident enough to make a run for the national stage.
“I think they believe they can do it,” Lollar said. “When you get there on match day emotions and the distractions of a match take their toll. It’s just how well they’ve trained to avoid those things. I don’t think we have anyone that doesn’t believe we can do it. We’ve just put ourselves in a tough spot.”