Story by Blake Sandlin, Contributing writer
With their season set to open this weekend, the Murray State rifle team will get their first taste of OVC play as they face UT Martin, ranked 19th nationally in the CRCA preseason poll.
Head Coach Alan Lollar said he is very confident in his team and is excited to get the first match of the season under his belt in order to evaluate what his team needs to work on.
“I think we’re prepared to have the first match of the year,” Lollar said. “We have to shoot in a real match with the clock running and the pressure on in order to evaluate really what we need to do.”
Despite the excitement around the game, Lollar said that nerves will still play a big factor, especially with the addition of two freshmen to the rifle roster.
“Everyone has nerves. For the freshman, there is only one first match in college,” Lollar said. “You have to get past it because they have absolutely no idea what to expect. And so they will be much better prepared for their second match than they will be for their first one.”
One big advantage the Racers have for their game Sunday is getting to shoot at their home range, which, Lollar said, plays a big role for his team.
“We are very comfortable at home because we shoot here every day,” Lollar said. “We know the lighting; we know the sight lines, so it does help to shoot at home.”
The Racers will be facing off against a team coached by Bob Beard, a former Murray State shooter who was the first to receive All-American honors at Murray State.
Lollar has high praise for Beard and said that he’s a great coach who has had a lot of experience at the competitive level. He believes that Beard will do everything he can to have his team ready on Sunday.
“They have some great things that they’re trying to do this year to improve it even more,” Lollar said of UT Martin’s program. “I look forward to seeing them in a competitive match and I’m just looking forward to getting the season started.”
With no seniors on the roster this year, the Racers are going to have to rely on their junior leadership this season. One of them, All-American shooter, Ivan Roe is excited to open the season to see what his team is capable of this year.
“I’m definitely excited. I want to see what we can do this year. I really want to see what other teams can do so we can see how we stack up,” Roe said. “It’s always a little nerve-wracking because it’s the first match, but everyone just wants to go out there and see what happens.”
Roe said that UT Martin has a very young team with a lot of new recruits so he believes that the Racers’ experience should be a big advantage when they face off this weekend.
“We have a lot of experience with our shooters, who [have] shot a lot of big matches, and they have the experience needed to stay cool under pressure, so that’s going to help,” Roe said.
Roe said that the underclassmen on the team have been stepping up a lot in practice and that they have the potential to lead the nation with their scores this year.
Lollar encourages everyone to come out to the match this Sunday and said that this is one of the biggest matches of the year for fans to come watch.
“If you’re ever going to come out to a match, this is the one to come to,” Lollar said . “We’re hoping everybody comes out on Sunday morning. We’ll start about 9 in the morning. We just hope to see all of our friends and fans this weekend.”
The match against UT Martin will start at 9 a.m. on Sept. 25 at the Pat Spurgin Rifle Range in Murray.