Plum takes aim with revamped rifle roster

Sunday, December 15, 2019 | 11:48 AM

The Plum rifle team was an experienced group last season with seven seniors helping to form the squad’s core.

That group included all five shooters who represented the Mustangs at WPIALs.

Graduation opened several spots in the lineup, and a younger Plum squad with four seniors, five juniors and 11 sophomores hopes to take advantage of the opportunities it has been afforded.

“There’s been a lot of growth rather quickly,” said senior Aiden Doyle, who noted there are a half dozen who are new to the sport this season.

“The more experienced shooters have worked with the younger ones, and they have really responded. It all comes down to self-focus and working hard every day to improve as much as possible. We’re really feeling good about what this team can accomplish as the season goes along.”

Doyle and fellow senior Nick Delmastro are co-captains.

“We had some who had to learn how to handle the rifle at the start,” Delmastro said. “They moved from groupings to actual scoring. They’ve progressed so much, and they’re only going to get better. We’ve seen dedication every day since the first practice that Monday (Nov. 18).”

In addition to Doyle and Delmastro, those looking to make their mark in matches this season include juniors Victoria Salopek and Ian Schrecongost and sophomores Abbie Hayward, Jared Pivik, Jason Rowe, AJ Dragonsky, Mark Van Orden and Justin Wescowski.

“We’re building skill and technique for each shooter,” Plum coach Bob Davis said. “Most of the newer and younger shooters come along pretty rapidly to a point. But getting from that point to where they are competitive, shooting 99s and 100s, that’s where it gets more challenging because you are talking about the finer points. It’s about finding that consistency.”

Despite losses in the Mustangs’ first two competitions, Davis said he saw positives and improvement from the opener Dec. 5 at Waynesburg to the match five days later at McGuffey.

“We came up 25 points from the first match to the second match,” Davis said. “To have that improvement, that’s all you can ask of them. You could tell by the chatter on the bus coming home that they were pretty excited about what they did.”

Hayward led Plum against McGuffey with a score of 100-6x.

Plum again will compete against Butler, Hempfield, Indiana and Penn-Trafford in Section 3. Armstrong, the newest team in the WPIAL, joins the section this year.

The Mustangs will face each team twice, and the top two teams will advance to the WPIAL team championships Feb. 11.

Hempfield entered the season as the two-time defending WPIAL team champion. Last year, the Spartans edged runner-up Trinity and third-place Butler for the title.

Plum hopes to improve on last year’s 2-6 record in section matches. The Mustangs tied for third with Indiana and Penn-Trafford.

Section shoots begin Jan. 7 against Penn-Trafford at the range at Plum High School.

“We know every year how challenging the section will be with some of the best teams in the WPIAL,” Doyle said. “We’re ready to take it head on.”

Between practices at the range and the matches, Davis said he will formulate the five-shooter group that will compete at the WPIAL individual finals Feb. 13.

“The kids really look forward to these matches,” Davis said. “(WPIALs) is a long-term goal, but it’s out there for them.”

Michael Love is a TribLive reporter covering sports in the Alle-Kiski Valley and the eastern suburbs of Pittsburgh. A Clearfield native and a graduate of Westminster (Pa.), he joined the Trib in 2002 after spending five years at the Clearfield Progress. He can be reached at


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