Huskers Aim for NCAA Top 10 Finish
After an impressive head coaching debut for Stacy Underwood in her first season at the helm for NU in 2012-13, the former two-time All-America shooter for the Huskers hopes for continued improvement in 2013-14.
Nebraska notched a 24-5 overall record in Underwood’s first season, doubling the Huskers’ win total from 2011-12. Nebraska increased its season combined scoring average by nearly 30 points, while qualifying for the NCAA Championships for the first time in three seasons. The Huskers capped Underwood’s inaugural head coaching campaign with a seventh-place NCAA finish, while three NU shooters captured All-America honors.
"Last year’s team laid a great foundation for the culture we wanted to create as a program. They fully committed to the process and our training philosophy which led us back to the NCAA Championships," Underwood said.
A trio of upperclass shooters led by seniors Sunny Russell and ReAnn Wilson along with junior Kelsey Hansen, will try to help the Huskers to even greater success in 2013-14. The three most experienced Huskers will be joined by four sophomores, including 2013 All-American Denise Martin, in welcoming a trio of freshmen to this year’s team.
"I expect this year’s team to continue with [the] same commitment to success [as last year’s team]. We have changed some of our training philosophies to reflect some of the format and rule changes in our sport this year. However, we are still a prepared and disciplined team that will compete with fearlessness," Underwood said.
Russell, one of Nebraska’s top shooters, is expected to lead by example on the range and in the classroom as a senior. The Texan earned Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and Academic All-Big Ten honors in 2012 and 2013. Russell owns more collegiate experience than any other Husker and could contend for All-America honors as a senior.
"As soon as the NCAA Championships were over, Sunny was already discussing ideas for the upcoming season," Underwood said. "Her passion to lead our program will help our team reach our goals."
Wilson, known for her outstanding work ethic, will be expected to help lead a young Nebraska team.
"ReAnn truly puts the team before herself," Underwood said. "She is continually looking for ways to help the team."
Hansen, a North Dakota native, is expected to be influential both on and off the range after qualifying for the NCAA Championships and capturing academic All-Big Ten honors as a sophomore in 2012-13.
"Kelsey will be a key competitor in our lineup," Underwood said. "Although Kelsey is a quiet individual, her performances speak loudly about the type of competitor she is."
Martin, a returning All-American after finishing fifth in smallbore as a freshman at the 2013 NCAA Championships, hopes to contend on the national level again in 2013-14. Martin, who also won a pair of individual air rifle titles during the regular season, will look for even greater success as a sophomore.
The Chewelah, Wash., native is joined in NU’s sophomore class by Magadalena Mical, Alexandrea Lorentz and Marissa Major.
Mical captured one combined title for the regular season, before firing a smallbore season-best 579 to help lock in NU’s spot at the NCAA Championships at the NCAA Qualifier. The Florida native could continue to see significant improvement after coming to NU as a relatively inexperienced smallbore competitor.
Lorentz, a sophomore from Anchorage, Alaska, was also relatively inexperienced as a freshman. Underwood said Lorentz continued to improve throughout her freshman season because of her competitiveness.
"Alex had a great rookie season all the way around," Underwood said. "Her competitive nature and strong work ethic will keep her pushing our team all the way to the NCAA Championships."
Major, an Arvada, Colo., native, made 10 appearances last year and earned academic honors.
"I am excited to see her start to put all the pieces together this season," Underwood said. "Her positive attitude is always appreciated on the range and later in the season, her hard work started to pay off."
Freshmen Lauren Phillips, Jaycee Carter and Rachel Martin will try to provide immediate contributions for the Huskers.
Phillips brings a strong competitive spirit, according to Underwood. The freshman from Seabeck, Wash., was the 2013 Washington Junior Precision Air Rifle champion.
Carter comes to Nebraska from California and brings extensive experience. She finished as the top J2 at the 2012 Junior Olympic National Shooting Air Gun Championships.
Rachel Martin also has extensive experience. The New Mexico native competed internationally in the summer of 2013, and was the top J2 shooter at the 2012 Junion Olympic Smallbore Championships.
Nebraska’s 2013-14 schedule includes plenty of opportunities to see the nation’s best teams. Each of Nebraska’s 12 regular-season opponents in 2013-14 is ranked in the CRCA Preseason Top 20, and the Huskers will face six top-10 foes.
The Huskers enter the 2013-14 campaign ranked No. 6 following their seventh-place NCAA finish in 2013.
West Virginia earned the preseason No. 1 ranking in the coaches poll, garnering 12 of the 16 first-place votes in the poll.
The Huskers will get an early look at the Mountaineers when they come to the NU Rifle Range for Nebraska’s season-opening match on Oct. 12. NU’s list of top-10 foes also includes No. 2 Kentucky, No. 4 TCU, No. 5 Army, No. 7 Air Force, No. 9 Murray State and No. 10 Ohio State.
After opening the season at home against No. 1 WVU on Oct. 13, the Huskers face No. 14 Navy at the NU Rifle Range on Oct. 26. After facing No. 19 UT-Martin in Murray, Ky., on Nov. 2, the Huskers return home for showdowns with No. 12 Memphis (Nov. 9) and No. 10 Ohio State (Nov. 23) to close the fall portion of their schedule.
Nebraska takes eight weeks off from competition before facing preseason No. 11 Ole Miss in Oxford on Jan. 19. NU competes against No. 4 TCU (Jan. 25) and No. 7 Air Force (Jan. 26) in its final home matches of the season at the NU Rifle Range.
The Huskers then prepare for the postseason with road battles against No. 9 Murray State, No. 2 Kentucky, No. 5 Army and No. 15 NC State to close the regular season. Postseason action begins at the NCAA Qualifier in Murray, Ky., on Feb. 22, before taking aim at the 2014 Great America Rifle Conference (GARC) Championships in Oxford, Miss., Feb. 28-March 2. Nebraska hopes to return to Murray, Ky., for the 2014 NCAA Rifle Championships, March 14-15.