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.
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.