Oct. 4, 2012
ANNAPOLIS, Md. -
The Navy rifle team will begin the 2012-13 season this weekend with the annual MAC Tournament in Annapolis. Navy will welcome Akron, VMI and John Jay on Saturday and then take on Akron and VMI on Sunday. Action will begin both days at 8 a.m. at the Bancroft Hall Rifle Range.
Navy returns in 2012-13 with a retooled roster that includes a stellar freshman class, the 2012 MAC Champion in Steven Frazier and perennial all-MAC selection Ryan Williams. The Midshipmen are coming off a disappointing 2012 campaign that saw them miss the NCAA Tournament for the first time in head coach Bill Kelley's tenure. With last year in the rearview mirror, the Mids are now squarely focused on the season ahead and ready to reclaim the program's spot as one of the best in the nation.
Williams, the team's captain, figures to lead the team's resurgence this season. The senior from McDonald, Ohio, was Navy's best in the air rifle last season.
"He has been doing exceptionally well this year," said Navy head coach Bill Kelley. "He has shot 593 in air rifle in three consecutive training matches this fall. He's cured a few things in smallbore and has a the ability to become an All-American in both guns."
While Williams' talent will certainly be a key to success this season, his leadership brings an immeasurable asset to a team with 10 underclassmen.
"His leadership has been exceptional this season," said Kelley. "We had a difficult season last year and Ryan helped get us through it. He came back this year with a renewed enthusiasm. I think the captain's retreat over the summer really helped as well.
"I feel very good about Ryan both as an athlete and as a leader."
Frazier, the team's lone junior, had a breakout campaign last season as he won the MAC Championship in both smallbore and air rifle. The McDonough, Ga., native had the top smallbore average on the team at 573.9.
"Steven made some real progress last season," said Kelly. "As the season ended he was really starting to come into his own. He has continued to improve leading into this season."
Navy will get a significant boost this year from its seven-member freshman class that has impressed Kelley in preseason practices.
"All seven of our incoming plebes, including the walk-ons, have experience," said Kelley. "Some are shooting better than some of our recruited athletes in years past."
The plebe class is made up of Shawn Cleary, Jodi Cull-Host, Dan Ecker, Zach Gibson, Joey Kendrick, Andrew Kim and Chris Krupczynski.
"This is as good of a freshman class as we've ever had in my time here," said Kelley. "It's an extremely solid class. They've brought an enthusiasm and drive to our team and they've got a lot of potential."
A trio of freshman have stood out especially and should begin the season as starters.
"Jodi Cull-Host has the potential to excel," said Kelly. "She didn't shoot smallbore in high school, but she's doing great here. She has made amazing progress in these weeks of practice leading up to the start of the season.
"Shawn Cleary and Zach Gibson have also been impressive."
Sophomores Alex Berry, Brandon Thompson and Britney Thornton will also figure to contribute this season.
This season will bring a new set of challenges to the Navy rifle team with several of the nation's top teams appearing on the schedule. The Mids will take on a host of new opponents this season from the Great America Rifle Conference (GARC). Navy will meet GARC members West Virginia and Kentucky on the road and host Ole Miss. The annual Army-Navy Star Match will take place Feb. 2 at West Point.
"We've got a very tough schedule this year," said Kelley. "It's quite challenging, but I think it's a challenge we need. The team has a very good attitude about it and they're excited."