Timothy Belin, Campus Carrier asst. sports editor
While Shorter University used to be Berry College’s biggest rival back when both teams competed in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), Berry has since developed a wide range of rivalries across its different sports.
“I think the original draw here was Berry and Shorter, when both were NAIA,” Thomas Johnson, Berry’s head women’s basketball coach, said. “Whenever you look back on any large crowds or any pictures in the history of the school, usually it’s those games.”
Berry’s volleyball head coach Caitlyn Moriarty agreed with Johnson and said that that rivalry disappeared when Berry moved to DIII.
“I think there used to be a huge rivalry with Shorter,” Moriarty said. “We were in the same conference in NAIA and then Shorter went DII and we went DIII, so I think if you ask some local Romans they like to create a rivalry, and I think in some sports maybe that rivalry stands, but in the volleyball hemisphere that rivalry has kind of fizzled.”
This separation prompted the already existing teams to find new rivalries, and gave newer programs the chance to form their own rivalries along with their identities.
As Berry’s newest sports program, football has had the least time to develop meaningful rivalries. While some games are more contested than others, head coach Tony Kunczewski said he would not consider any of them to be rivalries just yet, as those are usually rooted in history. He did, however, say that a few teams stick out because of the competition they have with them off the pitch as well as on it.
“Specifically with Centre, and to an extent Birmingham-Southern, we have a lot of crossover in recruiting,” Kunczewski said. “So it’s not that you’re just competing against them during the season, but you’re competing against them in the offseason too.”
Kunczewski said Hendrix College could also be considered a rival because they started their football program the same year as Berry did, but he said the team’s main focus was how they performed on the pitch. Senior defensive tackle Cullen Carlin said that this was reflected in their preparation, which stays the same no matter the opponent.
“Our coaches preach that if you change your preparation based on the opponent, then your preparation wasn’t good enough to start off with,” Carlin said. “So each week we really try and stay focused on keeping the same type of preparation.”
Big games tend to still get labelled as rivalries by fans, according to Kunczewski, but he said that nothing changes internally. However, Carlin said that they still appreciate the extra support.
“We have fantastic fans that, to be honest, it feels like we have a sell-out every week,” Carlin said. “I think that our fans are smart. Whenever it’s a big game they know to show up and be loud and be proud for our Vikings, so I’d say that our fans know whenever we’re facing an opponent that we really need to get a win.”
For Moriarty, rivalries stem from the competitiveness of the matches, so Birmingham-Southern College and Emory University are the obvious rivalries in her mind.
“In conference, traditionally, it’s been Birmingham Southern,” Moriarty said. “It’s who we’ve played in the championship match the last two years. It is a team that challenges us every year and we challenge them too. It’s always a mental battle between those two.”
Similar to football, Moriarty said Birmingham-Southern is also a rival because of the recruiting overlap, as well as other similarities between the programs.
“I think we compete in the recruiting sphere, we have the same hotbeds that we recruit from,” Moriarty said. “And they have a facility that’s difficult to play in, really good fans, and it’s been kind of a mental block for us to be successful in their gym, so it’s just a rivalry in that sense too, in that we’ve both created these atmospheres that are difficult to play in.”
Despite the competition, Moriarty said she would still describe it as a friendly rivalry, because of the respect and support the two programs share for each other.
“I think in the beginning of the conference it wasn’t as friendly of rivalries, there wasn’t a lot of respect for one another,” Moriarty said. “And I think the last probably four years all of the teams have realized we all are good and we should respect one another, and, honestly, support one another when it comes to out-of-conference matches. We’re gonna help each other with scheduling, we’re gonna help each other out with video, we want our conference to be really strong year to year, because it makes us better in the long run.”
Similarly to volleyball, men’s lacrosse finds its rivalries in its toughest opponents. As such, head coach Curtis Gilbert said Sewanee: The University of the South was their main rival.
“The rivalry just stems from how close the games are, how competitive it is,” Gilbert said. “They’ve been around for longer than we have, so I think for a while we had a real chip on our shoulder to get to the top and they were on top. And now we got there.”
Senior lefty attackman Matthew Tatum said that he enjoyed playing Sewanee because that competitiveness brings out the best from the players.
“Every time I’ve seen or played a game against Sewanee, it’s always come down to the last quarter,” Tatum said. “Everyone is pushing their hardest, everyone’s going as best they can, playing as best they can, and as a result it’s always a close game.”
Because those games can come down to a single goal, Gilbert said home support often played a big part in those games. Because of this, he also said Sewanee was the game most likely to see alumni of both programs come out and support their team.
“I think fans know what they’re gonna get on both sides,” Gilbert said. “Typically the stands are filled with purple and filled with blue and white. Both sides of the rivalry know what you’re gonna get in that game and our alumni come back for it. We’ve got alumni who’ll watch every game online, and when it comes time for them to come see a game, the one that they circle is typically the Sewanee game.”
While senior forward Eveline Parsons said Oglethorpe University and Millsaps College were the team’s biggest rivals, Johnson said rivalries are not really about the players.
“Rivalries are more for fans than they are for players,” Johnson said. “We have a healthy respect. Once it’s over with on the court, it’s over with for us and our athletes. Our fans it’s a little different. “
Part of the reason no team stood out as a rival to him was also the competitiveness of the conference.
“All of our opponents are tough, all of our opponents are meaningful. For us our league’s so good it always comes down to the last week of the season before we even know who’s gonna be playing who in the tournament, so when it comes to rivalries from a coaching standpoint, not one game is any less important than the other.”
Contrary to women’s basketball, women’s soccer head coach Lorenzo Canalis said that their rivalries exist more for the players than they do the fans.
“The fans are not really aware of that, it’s more the players I think,” Canalis said. “We make it into a big deal, as a way to pump ourselves up for it.”
Canalis, who’s been at Berry since 1995, said he always considered rivalries based on results. Because of this he stopped considering Shorter a rival even when they still played each other, as he said they defeated that opponent in what he estimated must have been more than twenty-five games in a row. Using this criterion, Canalis said their biggest Southern Athletic Association (SAA) rivals are Sewanee, Rhodes College, and Birmingham-Southern. In the case of Birmingham-Southern, the rivalry stems not only from competitiveness, but also their lengthy history playing each other.
“Birmingham-Southern we go way back, because we were in the same NAIA conference,” Canalis said. “We’ve been playing Birmingham-Southern probably for 20 years, so perhaps there is a rivalry there.”
Junior outside back Carson Gilliam agreed with her coach that the team’s rivalries were mostly for the players and said they helped them get into the right frame of mind.
“Going into big rival games, it’s more we’re aware that it’s a really big game, not really the viewers, but that changes our mindset,” Gilliam said. “We just try to be a lot more focused and just realize that every play does count that much more, because it is so important and it really does affect our standings when it comes to the end of the season, so everyone’s just really aware of how much is at stake.”
For baseball head coach David Beasley, Birmingham-Southern has to be considered their biggest rival, both because of the history between the two teams and the competitiveness of the games.
“They were in our conference before we went to the SAA, so Birmingham-Southern has been a strong rivalry since the late nineties,” Beasley said. “It’s been pretty solid, they’re always super successful, they’re always very good, I can remember some 1997, 1998 great contests with them, so Birmingham-Southern has been a pretty constant rival.
More recently, Oglethorpe has also started to be considered a rivalry game, and Beasley said that those games show exactly what rivalries should be about.
“Oglethorpe is always a good team no matter what, every time we play them it’s tough, no matter what their record is, no matter what our record is, any time, I do not know if we’ve had a game that wasn’t close,” Beasley said. “You know what I think is a good rival is a team that brings out the best in both sides.”