Answering The Call

West Virginia's defending national champion rifle team faced its toughest test of the season to date, but responded in fine fashion by knocking off the top-ranked Nanooks of Alaska-Fairbanks on Thursday.

UAF, which took over the top spot in the rankings a week ago (the rankings are determined by averaging the scores shot, not by voting), suffered its first loss of the year, dropping to 8-1. The Mountaineers moved to 8-0 on the season by recording an aggregate score of 4697 -- tops in the nation this year. Previously, UAF had recorded scores of 4691 and 4692.

West Virginia's depth was a key to the victory, as the Mountaineers outshot or tied the Nanooks in each of the four counting scores in the two disciplines of small bore and air rifle. WVU took the smallbore competition by the count of 2329-2318 and the air rigle by 2368-2352.

Junior Nicco Campriani, a six-year member of the Italian national team, laid waste to West Virginia's recod book with another outstanding performanct. He shot a school record 589 in the smallbore and tied the standard of 596 in the air rifle. He also set a school mark of 195 in the 200-shot standing portion of the smallbore event.

Bryant Wallizer and Brandi Eskew recorded flawless 200 point totals in the prone positions of the smallbore comeptition.

"Today was another strong team performance and definitely the type of result I was hoping for," coach Jon Hammond said. "Everyone shot a solid match.

"The overall standard of today's match was one of the highest I have ever seen. Both teams shot phenomenally, which makes the win even more satisfying."

Of course, Hannond's goal, as he told before the second half of the season began, is to peak for the NCAA championships, which will be held March 12-13 in Fort Worth, Tex. however, he was certainly pleased that the Mountaineers rose to the challenge posed by UAF, which WVU will certainly see again at the national championships.

"I think you peak in big matches," Hammond said. "We wanted to put in a strong performance. I know some of the student-athletes felt nerves, but they were able to deal with the pressure-filled situation and still shoot well.

"We may not shoot this high again for the rest of the season. We would like to, but we'll keep moving forward from this point and build off of the lessons learned. Hopefully today will help us come postseason."

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