The 2016-17 Nebraska rifle team marked a program milestone after reaching the 2017 NCAA Championships under third-year head coach Ashley MacAllister and second-year assistant coach Rick Johnson. The Huskers qualified for the NCAA Championships for the fifth consecutive year, tying the longest streak since rifle became a varsity sport at NU in 1998-99. The team's sixth-place finish at the NCAA Championships capped a very successful 2016-17 season that included several personal-best scores, new school records, a runner-up conference finish and a pair of All-Americans.
"I am so proud of this team this year," MacAllister said. "Everyone on this team worked hard to learn about themselves this year and how to manage their inner voices. Rifle is so much of a mental sport [so] it is very important that all of my athletes are very honest with themselves. In order for them to do this it means they have to be comfortable being vulnerable with themselves, their teammates, and their coaches. It is a tall task to ask of young adults at times but everyone on this team has embraced this so we can all grow and get better at what we do everyday."
The Huskers started the season by traveling to Oxford, Miss., on Oct. 15 to battle Ole Miss. Newcomers Samantha Peterson and Dacotah Faught paved the way for the Huskers and proved right away they were going to immediately influence the team. Peterson earned 584 in smallbore, while Faught scored 592 in air rifle. In addition, Katie Brown broke her career-high score in smallbore with 563. NU topped the Rebels 4,659-4,654.
Nebraska took a week off before hosting Ohio State at the NU Rifle Range on Oct. 29. In a narrow battle, the match was tied and needed to be determined by inner tens. Nebraska came out victorious after firing 272 to OSU's 270. Jordan Miller earned a new personal high in smallbore with 570 and Hannah Virga posted a season-best smallbore score of 567. Rachel Yager set a career-best smallbore score of 575.
The next weekend, the Big Red traveled to Lexington, Ky., for a pair of matches against Akron (Nov. 5) and Kentucky (Nov. 6). The Huskers dominated the Zips 4,663-4,630 but suffered their first loss of the season to the second-ranked Wildcats (4,683-4,675). Despite the loss, Faught made her way into the NU record books after shooting a 596 in air rifle. She, along with Rachel Martin, recorded the highest air rifle score ever shot by a junior and the second-highest air rifle score overall. Nina Radulovic earned a career-best smallbore score of 586 against the Wildcats as well, while Yager set a personal best in air rifle with 586.
The following weekend, NU had back-to-back matches against UTEP on Nov. 12 and Nov. 13 at the NU Rifle Range. Kayla Gadeken notched a career-best 591 on the second day, while Maddie Korthas (566) and Martin (584) each earned season-best scores in smallbore as well. The Huskers swept the Miners, moving to 5-1 at the conclusion of the first half of the season.
After two months off, Nebraska began the second half of its season with a long stretch of away matches. The series started with competitions against NC State (Jan. 15) and Army West Point (Jan. 16) in West Point, N.Y. NU topped both teams in come-from-behind victories, with help from strong air rifle performances. Carter set a new career-high score in smallbore with 579 against the Wolfpack, while Sutton tied her career best in the same discipline (564). Radulovic tied her career-high air rifle score against Army West Point with 593.
Next, the Big Red traveled to Morgantown, W. Va., and to face off against Navy on Jan. 21 and West Virginia on Jan. 22. NU went 1-1 that weekend, falling to then No. 2 West Virginia, but beating Navy. The next weekend, NU challenged Memphis and JSU in Memphis, Tenn., on Jan. 28 and defeated both teams.
Nebraska concluded the regular season at home against Alaska on Feb. 2. In the final home match of their Husker careers, seniors and All-Americans Carter and Martin led the Nebraska rifle team in a record-breaking performance. Martin led the team in smallbore with 582. Carter scored the second-highest score in air rifle (593), helping the Huskers to the highest air rifle score at the NU Rifle Range (2,367). Despite the incredible performance, NU fell to the Nanooks 4,691-4,683.
Two weeks later, the Huskers began postseason action at the NCAA Qualifiers in Murray, Ky., where the team finished second in its session and qualified for the 2017 NCAA Championships for the fifth consecutive season with a score of 4,666.
At the GARC Championships Feb. 24-25, the Huskers finished second (4,679) thanks to a tremendous air rifle performance. Martin and Carter led the team in air rifle, both notching scores of 595. Peterson and Faught were close behind with 593, and Radulovic rounded out the Huskers with a score of 590. The team's effort landed them a spot in the Nebraska record books, shooting the highest team air rifle score in school history (2,376). At the air rifle finals, Martin placed third overall and Carter grabbed the eighth spot.
The Huskers concluded their season at the 2017 NCAA Championships in Columbus, Ohio, March 10-11. NU placed sixth with a score of 4,676, while Martin and Carter finished sixth and eighth respectively in air rifle. West Virginia took home its fifth consecutive national title with a score of 4,723 and swept the individual titles. TCU and Murray State finished second and third, respectively.
Faught and Peterson earned All-America honors from the NRA for their tremendous efforts on the rifle range. Faught claimed second-team honors in air rifle, while Peterson was an honorable mention in smallbore. For Faught, it was her second All-America award.
Faught returns in 2017-18 as the only senior on the Husker squad. She, along with Peterson and Radulovic, will serve as the primary leaders on a team in pursuit of a school-record sixth straight NCAA appearance in 2018.