Emmaus rifle hits the target this season, entering postseason competition 8-1


Graphic courtesy of Canva.

Liza Duerholz, Editor-in-Chief

Despite the lack of seasoned players on the team, Emmaus varsity rifle only lost a single match the entire season and has big hopes entering state matches.

During the regular season, the team’s only loss was by a single point to Southern Lehigh High School – a team that was undefeated on all levels in the 2020-2021 season, and reigned state champions last year. Prior, Emmaus achieved six wins in a row, and their final win against East Stroudsburg South secured their second place spot in the district.

The varsity rifle team takes 10 players to each match, and last year they only filled seven spots. This season however, the team had six returning players and managed to fill the remaining four slots with first year shooters. 

According to Coach Michael Schuler, only the top five scores count from each team during a match, so there is flexibility for newer members.

“I think the biggest challenge is just getting over the hump for new shooters… for a lot of students, even if they’ve shot guns before, the sport of prone rifle is a whole other experience,” said Schuler.

One of the new shooters on the team this year, sophomore Sanaiya O’Neal, never shot a rifle before this year, but by the end of the season became a high scorer for Emmaus.

“The team was very welcoming and they made me feel like I should be here,” said O’Neal. “A highlight from this season would have been when I hit my very first 100 10x in a match [a perfect score]. I was surprised but I was proud of myself.”

Emmaus only has one senior this year, Nathan Servais, leaving behind almost a full varsity team for the 2022-2023 season. The downside, though, is there will be little room for upcoming shooters. 

Entering postseason competition, Schuler sent Servais and junior Griffin Lake to the Northeast Pennsylvania Rifle League (NEPARL) All-Star Tournament this past Thursday. Lake walked away with the first place title, and Emmaus took the second place seat overall. There was no All-Star Tournament last year, but the season prior Lake placed first as well and Emmaus placed third. 

The next step for Emmaus is the Rifle Team Tournament which takes place on Feb. 1 and Feb. 3. These two matches act as qualifiers to determine the teams that will advance to the state individual and team competitions in early to mid-February. The team’s first match will be against East Stroudsburg South High School, and if they win, the team predicts their second match will be against Southern Lehigh.

“With a win [against East Stroudsburg South], we’ll both clinch a berth in the State Team Tournament and a chance for a rematch with Southern Lehigh. So we’re looking ahead and [are] hopeful for a chance like that,” said Schuler. “It’s always gratifying to avenge a loss from earlier in the season, especially when it was so close as that match was.”

Lake looks forward to postseason competitions and hopefully a second win in a row at the State Individual Match. He acknowledges teammates that will assist Emmaus approaching the state matches. 

“I am very excited for [states] as a team and individually. States are shot on harder targets than what regular season is shot on, but Emmaus has three shooters that can consistently shoot dead center shots: Nate Servais, Sanaiya O’Neal, and myself,” said Lake. “I think we will do very well in the state match as a team.”

The State Individual Qualifier will take place on Feb. 8, the State Individual Match will take place on Feb. 10, and the State Team Match will wrap up the season on Feb. 15.