After losing a large and talented senior class, the Murray State rifle team is looking to return to its sixth-straight NCAA Tournament.
Last year, the team was ranked No. 1 in the nation for a week and finished fourth in the NCAA Tournament.
Seniors Shelby Huber and Meike Drewell are the co-captains of the team this year. Their past experiences will help them lead the underclassmen to the rifle team’s high standard of performance.
“We had great leaders on the team when we came on,” Drewell said. “ I think both of our goals is to be that for the rest of the team, because now we’ve stepped into the shoes. We are the leaders of the team and we want to provide that good example and provide a great team environment for everybody where everyone is encouraged by each other.”
With new faces on the team, Huber is glad to see that the underclassmen will have opportunities he didn’t always get.
“Having a smaller team this year really gives everyone the opportunity to get enough match experience,” Huber said. “Everyone can get a better amount of experience than we had when we were freshmen.
Last year’s senior class consisted of MacKenzie Martin, Barbara Schläpfer, Alathea Sellars and Eric Sloan. That senior class helped the Racers nab their fourth-straight OVC Championship and punch their fifth-consecutive ticket to the NCAA Tournament.
For Head Coach Alan Lollar, replacing those seniors is going to be hard.
“Basically, we’ve lost six All-Americans in the last two years,” Lollar said. “What we’re trying to do is build new. Our goal is always to take what we had and get a little bit better and so it’s up to this group to find their potential to take us a step further.”
While the majority of the team is still made up of upperclassmen, Lollar believes that the underclassmen can come in and contribute right away.
“Chloe Odle’s got a lot of potential on both guns,” Lollar said. “She just needs some maturity and consistency. Lauren Frealy is a freshman from Missouri, [she’s] a really good sling shooter, and is working hard. Before the year’s over, I feel like she’ll be able to contribute. Then we’ve got, we’ve got a transfer coming in January that we’ll talk about then.”
This year, Lollar and the team’s goal is to still be standing on the last day of the season.
“If you’re playing on the last day of the year, you got a chance to win everything,” Lollar said. “The NCAA championships is an animal like none other as far as the stress and the distraction and everything else that goes along with it. It’s not quite… as big as a basketball final four, but it’s as big as it gets for us and If we can get to that day, we’ve got a chance.”
The Racers’ season begins at 9 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 6, at the Pat Spurgin Rifle Range as they take on UT-Martin and Jacksonville State.