Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Top-Five NCAA Finish Keeps Huskers Climbing

By NU Athletic Communications

The Nebraska rifle team had another impressive season in 2013-14, continuing its advancements on the national level under second-year head coach Stacy Underwood. The Huskers set several school records and qualified for the NCAA Championships for a second consecutive year. 

Nebraska finished the season with a 24-9 overall record that included a 10-2 regular-season mark, before claiming a fifth-place team finish at the NCAA Championships.

Three Huskers captured All-America honors from the NRA and CRCA, led by NRA first-team All-Americans Denise Martin and Lauren Phillips and second-teamer Rachel Martin. All three awards came in the smallbore for the Big Red. The CRCA honored Phillips and Denise Martin on its third team, while Rachel Martin was an honorable-mention pick. The trio will form the nucleus of a bright future for the Huskers in the years to come, as Phillips and Rachel Martin were true freshmen in 2013-14. Sophomore Denise Martin, who led the Huskers with a third-place individual finish in smallbore at the 2014 NCAA Championships, is expected to lead a young and talented roster next season.

Coach Underwood claimed individual honors of her for the second straight season at Nebraska, capturing Great American Rifle Conference (GARC) Coach-of-the-Year honors. Phillips captured the smallbore title at the GARC Championships, while Rachel Martin added a runner-up finish in the event for the Big Red to help the team to a third-place finish. Rachel Martin also captured first-team All-GARC honors in smallbore, while Phillips brought home a second-team award in smallbore and honorable-mention All-GARC accolades in air rifle. Denise Martin added an All-GARC award of her own, earning honorable-mention in the smallbore.

Nebraska opened the season in October at the NU Rifle Range against defending NCAA champion West Virginia, falling to the Mountaineers by just five points. The Huskers received spectacular performances from Phillips, Rachel Martin, ReAnn Wilson and Maggie Mical. Wilson and Mical both started the season with personal-best scores, as Wilson posted a 574 in smallbore and Mical notched a 588 in air rifle.

The Huskers used the early confidence gained from their narrow loss to the Mountaineers to reel off eight consecutive victories - all against ranked opponents. Nebraska's run began with Navy on Oct. 26, when Phillips, Denise Martin and Alex Lorentz fired career-best scores. Phillips produced a 585 in air rifle, while Lorentz (577) and Denise Martin (584) both registered smallbore career highs.

The Big Red hit the road for the first time in November, traveling to Kentucky to face UT-Martin. The Huskers cruised to victory by over 200 points, as Denise Martin led NU with a 584 in smallbore and a 587 in air rifle.

Nebraska returned home for two matches against Memphis and Ohio State at the end of November. Denise Martin scored a season-high 591 in air rifle against Memphis, while Sunny Russell finished with a personal-best score of 589 in air rifle against the Buckeyes. The Huskers won both matches to conclude the fall portion of their schedule.

Nebraska opened 2014 on the road, competing against Ole Miss in Oxford. The Huskers captured a narrow six-point win over the Rebels, before returning home to face Air Force twice in the same weekend. NU flew past the Falcons with an impressive 4,685, surpassing the Huskers' previous season high combined score by more than 20 points. It was the fourth-highest score in program history. Kelsey Hansen fired a season high 593 in air rifle to help the team get the victory.

The following day, Hansen and Rachel Martin both fired air rifle scores of 591 to help the Huskers rally for another win after trailing by more than 10 points after the completion of smallbore competition.

In early February, NU traveled to Kentucky, for dual matches against Murray State and Kentucky. The Huskers defeated Murray State, but fell short against the Wildcats, who snapped Nebraska's eight-match winning streak.

The Huskers bounced back quickly to finish the regular season strong by defeating NC State and the hosts from Army in West Point, N.Y. Against NC State, Nebraska shattered the program’s previous air rifle record and finished with a team score of 4,690, the second-highest team score in program history. Freshman Rachel Martin finished with career-best smallbore score of 585, while Phillips added a career-best 593 in air rifle.

The following day against Army, Phillips raised her career-high smallbore score to 587, while Jaycee Carter (593) and Marissa Major (577) both added career bests in the air rifle to help the Huskers past the Black Knights.

After a two-week break from competition, Nebraska journeyed to Murray, Ky. for the NCAA Qualifiers. The Huskers performed well, taking second out of seven teams to claim a spot in the NCAA Championships field for the second straight season.

In between the NCAA Qualifiers and the NCAA Championships, the Huskers stayed sharp by competing in the GARC Championships in Oxford, Miss. Nebraska finished third at the conference meet behind stellar individual performances from freshmen Phillips (champion) and Rachel Martin (runner-up) in the smallbore. The duo dominated the event, as the third-place winner finished more than 10 points behind Martin and more than 15 points behind Phillips.

Denise Martin also made it to the smallbore finals and finished in eighth place. Phillips added a trip to the air rifle finals, where she finished seventh.

At the NCAA Championships March 14-15 in Murray, Ky., the Huskers finished fifth with a combined score of 4,660. West Virginia (4,705) successfully defended its 2013 NCAA title, while Alaska (4,677), Kentucky (4,675) and Memphis (4,669) finished just in front of the Big Red. Denise Martin highlighted the Husker performances at the NCAA Championships, taking third in the individual smallbore competition with a career-best 586 to put the finishing touches on an outstanding 2013-14 season for the Huskers.


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