The rivalry between the University of Cincinnati (UC) and Xavier University dates back to the early 1900s, and their latest matchup on the volleyball court resulted in a Bearcat victory. Following competitive gameplay and the spirit of an electric crowd, The News Record took a deeper look into the historic rivalry between the two Cincinnati-based schools.
Significance of the rivalry for the city
Brawls, blowouts and buzzer beaters are only a handful of the reasons that the Cincinnati-Xavier rivalry is so important to the city and its surrounding communities. The truth is that this feud goes beyond the sports world and into the families that associate themselves with their respective universities.
Clifton and Norwood are a mere three miles apart, intertwining Bearcat and Musketeer fans alike in the same neighborhoods. Siblings have even found themselves attending rival schools, light-heartedly separating a household in half.
The sense of pride in a victory over the crosstown rivals is unmatched by any other opponent on either UC's or Xavier's schedule. The evidence is in the crowds of these sporting events, where the stands always appear to be split in half by red and navy blue. Noise levels are off the charts, and school pride oozes from the bleachers.
A member of the UC women's soccer team, junior Maddie Thiss, is a transfer from Xavier to Cincinnati. Thiss was a part of the Musketeers' defense in 2019 and earned Freshman All-Big East honors before moving to Clifton. At the women's soccer match this year, the Xavier student section chanted "traitor" multiple times while she was on the ball.
With the only Cincinnati-Xavier matchup thus far for the fall having been a 1-0 Xavier victory in women's soccer, the UC volleyball team's victory over Xavier makes the rivalry record 1-1 for the season.
Volleyball in the rivalry's history
After Thursday's win, Cincinnati extended the rivalry record to eight Bearcat wins to the Musketeer's four. Cincinnati head coach Molly Alvey, leading her 10th season at the Bearcats helm, is 6-4 against the Musketeers.
The two teams first met in 2002, resulting in a Cincinnati sweep and prolonging the next meeting until nine years later. Whether or not Xavier feared a sweep for the near-decade, the next meeting in 2011 didn't look much different, concluding in a 3-1 Bearcat victory.
After Thursday's match, Cincinnati still holds the advantage, doubling Xavier's rivalry wins.
For volleyball, the rivalry gives the women on both sides a chance in the constant battle to be the best in Cincinnati. These talks typically center around the men's basketball programs.
Both the Musketeers and Bearcats are destined to claim titles as the best in Cincinnati, but only one team per sport can claim that honor each year.
This year's coverage
Coming into the night, both teams were at a standstill with their record, Cincinnati 3-3 and Xavier 4-4, with only one squad leaving with a winning record.
Seniors Maria Mallon and Shannon Williams guided the Bearcats to a 3-1 win, leading both teams in kills with 19 each. For the Musketeers, sophomore Delaney Hogan recorded the most kills at 18, eight being the next most recorded by a Musketeer.
Mallon also led the match for both squads in digs, recording 15 along with Maria Tobergte and Payton Frederick, who also marked 15.
The Musketeers started strong in a Bearcat-favored Fifth Third Arena but slipped as the match progressed to only 16 and 18 points scored in the third and fourth sets, respectively. The first two sets, which each team took one of, were finalized by only a two-point separation gap. This is unlike the last two, which saw a nine and seven-point score separation in Cincinnati's favor, respectively.
With fellow Bearcat student-athletes filing into Fifth Third Arena, the rivalry's deep meaning to UC was evident through all four sets, partly due to Cincinnati's cheer squad and "Ruckus" student section packing the court ends.
For now, rivalry fans in the Cincinnati area can look forward to Dec. 11, when the Bearcats' men's basketball team travels to the Cintas Center to take on the Musketeers. Until then, women's tennis will receive the rivalry's next spotlight on Sept. 24.