Rifle to Begin 2017-18 Season at Tiger Open on Sunday
ANNAPOLIS, Md. – The Navy rifle team begins its 2017-18 campaign this Sunday morning with a Great American Rifle Conference match at the University of Memphis as part of the Tiger Open. The competition marks the first of 10 regular season matchups for the Mids and the program’s first-year head coach Mike Anti. Under the leadership of the former West Virginia All-American shooter and four-time United States Olympian, the Mids will look to continue growing as a program and crack into the nation’s elite with a spot at the NCAA Championship.
“Going into this year our goals are pretty high,” remarked head coach Mike Anti. “Obviously, we’d like to do well during the season with a lofty goal to make the NCAA Championship. I think we have a legitimate chance of breaking into the top-eight and attaining that goal. We’d be remiss if I didn’t say that an overriding goal for this season is to beat Army.
“We’ve started the preseason out with a lot of skill work and working on our athlete’s positions. When you have a real solid position that has a good hold then you can start focusing and with that your confidence comes. Coach MacKenzie and I have really been focusing on that from a teaching standpoint.”
The team’s lone senior Thomas Sarant will lead the young squad into competition this season as he was elected the team captain. The New York native has shown himself to be a consistent member of the Mids’ starting lineup over his first three seasons and continued that in 2016-17 as he posted career-high smallbore and air rifle averages of 569.7 and 584.3, respectively. His air rifle average was second-best on the team and tops amongst returners for 2017-18.
He’ll be joined in the upperclass by juniors Josh Watson and Nash Richardson. Watson was a week-in, week-out pillar for Navy in 2016-17 as he posted the second-best aggregate scoring average for the Mids at 1156.0. Watson turned in a 573.0 smallbore average score and a 583.0 average in air rifle. In nine of his 12 competitions as a sophomore he surpassed both the 570-point mark in smallbore and the 580-mark in air rifle.
Richardson came into his own as the 2016-17 season progressed as he improved his smallbore average 12.3 points from his freshman year up to a 567.1 average. He also increased his air rifle average 4.1 points up to 572.9. His air rifle performances picked up down the stretch with matching career-best 581 scores versus Army on Feb. 4 and in the NCAA Qualifier versus John Jay on Feb. 18.
One of the top stories last season was the in-season growth of current sophomore Kestrel Kuhne. After opening her collegiate career with an 1129 aggregate in her first match in October, Kuhne was consistently recording 1160’s aggregate scores in the second half of Navy’s schedule. She finished with a smallbore average of 568.1 and single-match high score of 577, and an air rifle average of 580.7 with a season-best mark of 591.
Lucas Figi gives Navy a second sophomore on its roster. Sidelined over the first half of the season, Figi got into four matches for the Mids in January and February with his best performance coming in the team’s NCAA Qualifying Match versus John Jay on Feb. 18 with an 1131 aggregate result courtesy of a 569 in smallbore and a 562 in air rifle. His season-best air rifle score came two weeks earlier at Army with a 569-point effort.
A trio of talented freshmen join the program for the 2017-18 season. Daniel Enger, a plebe from the state of Washington should immediately challenge for top standing in Navy’s starting lineup. A second generation collegiate shooter as his mother shot at the University of Alaska, as well as in 1992 Olympics, Enger is four-time competitor at the United States Junior Olympics meet. In 2016, he earned ELEY High School All-American status (one of 10 nationally) with an eighth place result at that year’s National JO Air Rifle Championship.
A local shooter from Columbia, Md. and the Antietam Junior Rifle Club in the form of Torrance Kang also comes to Navy with a lengthy resume. A teammate of Kuhne at Antietam, Kang earned the Maryland State Junior Olympic title in both smallbore and air rifle in 2017. She also finished first at the 2016 Maryland State Indoor Smallbore Championship and the 2015 Maryland State Indoor Air Rifle Championship.
Navy’s third freshman, Luke Knollinger is a projectable talent, who was a two-sport athlete in high school in West Virginia. A four-year member of the Wheeling Park High School hockey team as a forward, Knollinger shot at the club level with the Frazier Simplex Rifle Club in Washington, Pa.
The Midshipmen open this season ranked 14th in the Collegiate Rifle Coaches Association preseason poll. Following this Sunday’s match in Memphis, Navy’s 2017-18 schedule will see the Mids host seven matches at the Bancroft Hall Rifle Range, including the 2017 President’s Trophy Match for service academies on Nov. 4 and the 2018 Star Match with Army on Feb. 3.