If you were to apply a movie motif to the 2015-16 all-sports rivalry between Kentucky and Louisville, go with Groundhog Day. In the head to head between Cats and Cards, the 2015-16 school year was almost an exact replay of 2014-15.
For the second year in a row, U of L held the clear upper hand in men’s sports.
With the caveat there could still be NCAA Tournament meetings between the schools in some spring sports, Louisville men’s teams went 5-1 against Kentucky this school year. The Cards swept the Cats in baseball, beat them in football and also claimed victories in soccer and swimming.
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On the women’s side of Cats vs. Cards, the level of dominance was almost equal — with the opposite school doing the dominating.
With Kentucky’s 2-1 comeback softball victory at Louisville on Wednesday night — the last regular-season meeting between the teams this year — UK women’s teams went 4-1 against U of L.
The Cats women also beat the Cards in basketball, soccer and volleyball. U of L’s only victory over UK came in swimming.
So, in head-to-head competition, Louisville holds a 6-5 edge over Kentucky. Had the UK-U of L softball game on April 6 not been rained out and then not rescheduled, the archrivals might have finished this school year dead even.
Last year, U of L went 7-5 (5-1 men’s, 2-4 women’s) against UK. Two years ago, Kentucky had the clear upper hand at 9-4 (4-3 in men’s sports, 5-1 in women’s).
Yet what I find most fascinating about the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry as it presently stands is that it is completely “streaky” — as you will see below, amazingly so — across all sports.
Baseball: Dan McDonnell’s Cardinals have beaten the Wildcats five games in a row — starting by eliminating UK from the 2014 NCAA Tournament.
Football: The Cardinals have won five in a row, including come-from-behind victories in the last two games under Cats-killer Bobby Petrino.
Soccer: Ken Lolla and Louisville have won two in a row and five of the last six over Kentucky.
Swimming: Under Arthur Albiero, U of L has won the last eight head-to-head dual meets with UK.
Basketball: Matthew Mitchell and Kentucky have beaten Jeff Walz and Louisville five games in a row and six out of seven.
Soccer: The Wildcats under Jon Lipsitz have won five straight and six of seven. Kentucky has held Louisville without a goal for five straight years.
Softball: Rachel Lawson’s Cats have claimed five of their last six games against U of L.
Swimming: Albiero and Louisville have won seven years straight against Kentucky.
Volleyball: Craig Skinner’s Cats have beaten the Cardinals three years in a row and five out of six.
Crazy pendulum swings
In a rivalry as fierce as UK-U of L, you would think victories in at least some sports would rock back-and-forth between the schools on a yearly basis. Instead, when “control” of the Kentucky-Louisville rivalry in a sport swings, it often shifts dramatically.
Before Louisville’s ongoing stretch of swimming success vs. UK, Kentucky had beaten U of L 14 years in a row in men’s meets and 15 straight in women’s.
Immediately proceeding UK’s run of five wins in six years in volleyball, Louisville had gone 19-1 vs. the Cats in the previous 20 meetings.
Prior to U of L’s five-game win streak in football, Kentucky had beaten the Cardinals four straight (2007-10).
In women’s basketball, Louisville had beaten Kentucky five years in a row (2004-05 through 2008-09) until the Cats launched their current run of six wins in seven games.
Before Kentucky’s current 5-1 run in softball, U of L had been on a dominant 12-1 stretch vs. the Cats.
So if you are a suffering Kentucky football fan or a frustrated Louisville basketball backer — men’s or women’s — you should draw inspiration from this:
In the freakishly streaky Cats-Cards rivalry, when the worm finally turns, it tends to turn with authority.