The University of Memphis Rifle team is headed to Morgantown, West Virginia this weekend to compete in their first match of the season. The number 7 ranked Tigers will face off against the number 4 Mountaineers Oct. 10.
Newly appointed Head Coach Morgan Phillips has implemented a stricter practice program for the Tigers’ preseason preparation. Phillips says she wants the team to focus on the little things they have worked on in practice leading up to the event. However, she is looking at the match as an opportunity for learning and growth.
This match also serves as a homecoming trip for Coach Phillips. She shot at West Virginia as a member of their rifle team for the entirety of her collegiate career. Phillips accumulated several accolades at West Virginia, including a team NCAA National Championship and back-to-back NCAA individual smallbore rifle titles in 2017 and 2018.
“I think it will definitely be really different showing up and being employed by a different school,” Phillips said. “It is always fun to be back in Morgantown and I am looking forward to showing the kids around a little bit, about half of them have never been there before.”
Memphis sophomore Kaylene Castillo is ready to begin her season after the preparation she has put in the last several months. Castillo says she is excited, but nerves are beginning to set in as the first match of the season approaches.
“You kind of feel like you have to prove that you have met some of your goals and that all your hard work in the range has paid off,” Castillo said. “But no one is asking you to shoot a personal record every time you compete, you just have to go in with a clear mind and have fun with it.”
Traveling to matches will be a new challenge for the Memphis sophomores. Almost all the Tigers’ matches were played at home last season due to COVID-19, except for a few in Kentucky and the NCAA Championship. Sophomore Taylor Christian from Spokane, Washington, says it will be new to her, but she is excited to travel and compete.
“I feel like I am prepared, but I’m going into this match as a learning experience, last year we did not have a lot of traveling competitions so it’s going to be an adjustment for me,” Christian said. “I haven’t been on the east coast much, so just to see new areas, I am excited to go and find something new and see new things.”
Sunday's matchup will see interim Head Coach Morgan Phillips return to her alma mater of West Virginia University. Phillips shot there for her collegiate career, where she earned numerous titles.