By Aaliyah Essex
Pirate Nation looks to take the court against the Spartans in the annual "Battle of the Bay." Hampton will host the double header against Norfolk State Saturday, Jan. 30.
The 8-12 Lady Pirates will take on the 0-18 Lady Spartans at 4 p.m. Hampton University's men's basketball team is scheduled to take on Norfolk State at 6 p.m. With the two male teams sitting at No. 1 and 2 in the MEAC respectively, the matchup is expected to be full of intensity.
With both schools within a 15-mile radius, the competition tips off far beyond the wooden planks. For fans at both Historically Black Universities, the rivalry that dates back to 1963 seeps into the stands.
Renee Stephen, graduate of the Hampton's Class of 1985, still enjoys the rivalry. "HU has always been seen as the cream of the crop academically, and for a while, NSU was known as the cream of the crop athletically," explains Stephen. "This causes each side to have to prove themselves to one another. We're constantly fighting to win."
Stephen took her son to experience the matchup as a young child. Her son Antrell, who is currently a Hampton student, now takes his mom's place in the stands.
"Honestly, when it comes to NSU, it's literally like a tournament," says the junior sports management major. "Teams versus teams. Cheerleaders versus cheerleaders. Fans versus fans. Wardrobes versus wardrobes. It's so competitive because we are the two African-American schools in the Hampton Roads area."
Though both schools are small compared to others in the NCAA, the fans feel that the competition is just as relevant. "This is the Duke vs. UNC [North Carolina] of HBCU's," says junior HU student, Gary Faulcon. "They are both right here and all the students are very active in the rivalry."
Kelsey Jenkins, a junior NSU student, relates the opposition to the NFL. "It's like the Redskins against the Cowboys. It's exciting."
As the day approaches, fans gear up for an action-packed night. After the regulation clock winds down, fans begin to put aside their school spirit in order to unite. "It's a friendly rivalry," says alumna Renee Stephen. "We are rooting for NSU," she says in regards to their recent administrative controversies. "We represent black schools in the area. So at the end of the game, we are together."
Supporters from both sides are patiently awaiting their opportunity to take bragging rights. With both male teams suffering one loss in conference play, the some fans said they are anticipating war!
The writer is a student in the Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications.