The biggest sporting event of the university calendar is now less than a month away, with one of the South Coast’s greatest rivalries going head to head again.
Solent University will make the short trip down the coast to Bournemouth University on the 9th May as Varsity is staged for its third consecutive year.
The event will showcase the sporting talents of over 25 teams, with Solent Ladies football, Solent Hockey and Solent Redhawks amongst its headliners.
For Solent’s Women’s Football team, headlining the event is far from a new experience; the Sparks stormed to a 4-0 victory over Bournemouth in 2017 as one of the featured games.
Having faced their local rivals twice already in BUCS competition last season, manager Rafa Citron is looking to make it three wins out of three in May.
“Both games were really competitive,” said Citron, who is taking charge of a team at Varsity for the first time. “We’ll need to work hard as I expect [Varsity] to be harder than [BUCS] was, but we’ll be ready.”
“With everything we’ve done so far this season, this last game has to be on the same level. The idea would be to keep the same players, same strategy, same formation.”
It’s a contrasting story for the university’s American football side Solent Redhawks, who will be looking towards Varsity as an end of season high following a disappointing BUCS campaign.
Offensive lineman Adam Hillier claims the event is the perfect opportunity to get the positivity flowing amongst the team again.
“We’re looking forward to it,” Hillier said. “It’s a chance to get some game time and have a good day.”
“After the tough season we’ve had we’re looking to show people what we are capable of again.”
Team Solent Men’s Hockey will be sharing a similar motivation going into Varsity following their BUCS campaign.
Despite an impressive away win against runners up University of Exeter at the end of January, Solent Hockey finished bottom of their Western 2A BUCS division.
The side will also be looking for revenge for defeat in Varsity last year; taking to their twitter to say they are “gunning for payback” on the 9th of May.
The History of Varsity
The event Solent and BU will take part in is rich in history, dating back nearly 200 years and commonly used to label the rivalry between Cambridge and Oxford universities.
A Varsity cricket match between the Oxbridge universities is the oldest reoccurring Varsity match on record having been played for the first time in 1827.
Whilst in America the televising of school sports is commonplace, Varsity gives UK universities and colleges the opportunity to represent themselves on a greater stage through greater coverage.
That being said, a rugby game between University of St. Andrews and the University of Edinburgh also holds a rich heritage in Varsity history, having been played since the 1860s.
Today the rivalries of Oxbridge are there alongside several city and regional sporting rivalries including: King’s College London vs University College London, University of Liverpool vs Liverpool John Moores University, University of Southampton vs University of Portsmouth and of course the infamous Solent vs Bournemouth rivalry.
In 2016, Solent and BU took on each other during a Varsity match for the very first time, with the hosts coming out as the inaugural winners.
The first games saw 21 fixtures staged across 13 sports and with over 550 athletes taking part, with Bournemouth triumphing 14-7 over Solent thanks to wins in hockey, rugby, table tennis, netball and squash.
Solent made a good account of themselves too with wins in the cricket, men’s basketball, football and American football.
These numbers have sky rocketed in the years since, with over 1,700 students in attendance at last year’s Varsity event.
Last Time Out
On the 17th May last year Southampton Solent and Bournemouth University enjoyed another successful Varsity event.
Despite some respectable Solent performances, BU once again edged the final standings winning 14 to Southampton’s 11.
Notable performances included Solent’s women’s cricket team winning 194-76 and the American Football side taking home the crown with a 22-7 victory.
The headline game saw Solent Ladies take the limelight, storming to a 4-0 victory as the final game of the day.
The event being held at Chapel Gate in Bournemouth this year will once again feature 25 sporting matches, with two main events representing the finest each university has to offer at the end of the day.
Solent will be hoping for revenge over their local rivals in 2018.
You can get your tickets for the event at eshop.solent.ac.uk