LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The National Fastpitch Coaches Association released the 2014 USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 Preseason Poll on Tuesday with Tennessee ranked at No. 1.
Tennessee totaled seven first-place votes. Defending national champion Oklahoma claimed the second spot and had 17 first-place votes. Washington (one vote), Florida (six) and Michigan (one) rounded out the third through fifth spots, respectively.
The SEC boasts three teams in the top 10 in No. 1 Tennessee, No. Florida and No. 6 Alabama. The SEC and Pac-12 each had three teams in the top 10 to tie for the lead among all conferences. The SEC has eight teams in the top 25 with Texas A&M ranking 11th, Kentucky at 12th, Missouri at 14th, LSU at 17th, and Georgia at 23rd.The SEC had eight teams ranked in the top 25, more than any other conference.
The Lady Vols have been ranked in the preseason top 16 each year dating back to 2005. UT's previous highest preseason ranking was No. 2 in 2007. This year's preseason ranking marks the sixth time UT has started the year ranked in the top 10, the fourth time it has been ranked in the top five and the third time it has started in the top three of the USA Today/NFCA Preseason Poll.
The Lady Vols enjoyed one of their finest seasons in program history in 2013, finishing as the national runner-up, making their sixth Women's College World Series appearance in nine years and posting their eighth 50-win season with a final record of 52-12. UT returns several key players from its 2013 WCWS championship series run, including All-American seniors Ellen Renfroe and Madison Shipman. With 11 returning veterans and seven exciting newcomers, Tennessee seems primed for another big season.
Tennessee opens the 2014 season on Feb. 7 against Northern Colorado in the Georgia Southern Tournament in Statesboro, Ga. The Lady Vols open their home slate with a doubleheader against Wright State on March 5. UT's first SEC home series is March 21-23 against South Carolina.