Northwestern, the reigning national champions, starts the 2012 season sitting in the top spot as the IWLCA released the preseason poll. Maryland, the 2011 runners-up, start in second while 2011 semifinalist North Carolina comes in at third. 

The ACC and the ALC both claim five schools in the rankings while the Big East follows closely with four institutions. The Ivy League is the only other conference to boast of multiple schools in the top-20 with three. The MPSF, CAA, and America East are each represented by one school.

IWLCA PRESEASON POLL
Defending champ Northwestern opens 2012 as the top-ranked team. Check out the full rankings.

The ACC has four schools in the top 10, with Duke joining the No. 2 Terrapins and No. 3 Tar Heels at No. 5 and Virginia rounding out the top 10 at No. 10.

Boston College begins the season in the poll where they left 2011, sitting at No. 13.

The ALC is led by top-ranked Northwestern; Florida, who finished their second season in school history at No. 5 in the final 2011 poll, starts 2012 at No. 4.

Penn State (No. 17), Ohio State (No. 18), and Vanderbilt (No. 19) form a block in the second half of the poll as all six ALC schools took home votes in the preseason rankings. 

The Big East is led by Loyola at No. 7. Syracuse starts 2012 in the No. 12 slot, with Georgetown three spots back at No. 15. Notre Dame rounds out the poll in the No. 20 slot. The Ivy League also has a top-10 school in Princeton; the Tigers open at No. 8. Penn starts the second half of the poll, coming in at No. 11, while Dartmouth sits at No. 14.  

Stanford of the MPSF opens the season at No. 6, while the CAA’s James Madison is also in the top 10 as the Dukes start at No. 9.

Albany from the America East opens 2012 sitting at No. 16.