The Alaska Nanooks rifle team will play host to the defending national champion Texas Christian University Horned Frogs this weekend. The matches on Friday and Sunday will mark the first Patriot Rifle Conference action for the Nanooks this season.
The Friday match will be at the E.F. Horton Rifle Range. On Sunday teams will compete at the Tanana Valley Sportsmen’s Association range, but due to COVID-19, the Nanooks rifle team and administration have announced that no fans or spectators will be permitted at any home events.
The results this weekend could have major implications near the top of the NCAA rankings, as the Horned Frogs are currently ranked fourth and the Nanooks are ranked fifth. It will be an important pair of matches for the Nanooks. The team is sitting on a 3-1 record, but with only the pair of matches against TCU and two more against Air Force later this month on their conference schedule, this weekend could be make or break for the Nanooks.
“We have Texas Christian coming here this weekend, should be a great match for the team, good challenge. TCU is the reigning national champions from 2019. No championship was contested in 2020, so still the reigning national champions,” Nanooks coach Will Anti said during a news conference Monday.
“Everyone’s looking good. Looks like we are well prepared for the match,” Anti said in assessing his own team’s preparation, adding that consistency in training has been the key to staying sharp during a long layoff. “It’s a really consistent group. They show up every day ready to work, and it’s showing up in the results.”
Last time out the Nanooks faced off against Georgia Southern University in Oxford, Mississippi with the Nanooks winning 4,693-4,579. However, that match was back on Nov. 19, and now with a nearly two-month layoff between competitive shooting, the team has been focused on staying ready. Anti said that after a number of matches were cancelled at the beginning of the season, the challenge for the team this season, as with most athletes, has centered on making the most of an unusual situation.
“It’s been an interesting year with a lot of challenges, but ... there were definitely some opportunities to take,” Anti said. “Instead of that being a detriment, it was like OK, that gives us a chance to really dive deep into what we need to work on. With the classes being partially online and partially in person, it gives us a little more freedom with scheduling. So, it’s looking at the challenges and then kind of finding the opportunities in them. And this team’s doing a good job of doing that.”
Nanooks freshman Rylan Kissell also said that it’s been important for the team to find ways to turn this unusual season to their advantage. “With classes being online, we get a little more opportunity to shoot more, which is great... it’s kind of nice having everything online in one spot. You can go into the range, focus on what you need to do,” Kissell said.
Senior Jessica Boyce said that she’s been encouraged by what she’s seen from her teammates this season.
“The team we have right now is the team I’ve wanted to be on for a very long time, so it’s very exciting,” she said.
Contact staff writer Sam Ferrara at 459-7575.