Aug. 20, 2010

Courtesy of AVCA

Three-time defending national champion Penn State University finds itself in a familiar position, as the Nittany Lions have been voted the top team in the AVCA Divison I Coaches Top 25 Preseason Poll, announced by the AVCA headquarters this afternoon.

Despite losing 2009 AVCA Division I National Player of the Year Megan Hodge at the outside hitter position and three-time AVCA All-American setter Alisha Glass, PSU will return a solid core to the court in 2010, anchored by  a pair of two-time AVCA All-Americans in right side hitter Blair Brown and middle blocker Arielle Wilson. Russ Rose's talented roster features 11 returning letterwinners from a squad that went 38-0, captured its seventh consecutive Big Ten championship, won its third straight national title and extended its NCAA record win-streak to 102 matches in 2009.  

The University of Nebraska, coming off a 26-7 mark and a final ranking of No. 5 a season ago, rings in 2010 as the nation's No. 2 vote-getter. Task master John Cook returns five starters and his libero to the court after the squad advanced to the NCAA Regional final in 2009. Leading the way will be a trio of AVCA All-Americans, including Sydney Anderson at setter, Brooke Delano at middle blocker and Tara Mueller at outside hitter. Add transfer Lauren Cook (setter), the 2009 AVCA Division I National Freshman of the Year, to the mix and the Huskers should have the ingredients for a deep postseason push.

The Longhorns of The University of Texas debut 2010 in the third spot on the coaches poll after ending the 2009 campaign as the national runners-up with a 29-2 overall record. Signal-caller Jerritt Elliott welcomes back four starters and nine total letterwinners to the sidelines for a new go-around and will look to the services of two-time AVCA All-American outside hitter Juliann Faucette to lead the offensive attack. Also back is setter Michelle Kocher and middle blockers Rachael Adams and Jennifer Doris.

Coming in fourth in the preseason poll is John Dunning's Stanford University program, after ending 2009 with a 23-8 record, the Pac-10 championship and a final ranking of No. 7. With five starters, the libero and eight total letterwinners back for a new season, the Cardinal look to be a serious contender yet again. Three-time AVCA All-American outside hitter Alix Klineman will lead the march in 2010 and will be aided by 2009 AVCA First-Team All-American Cassidy Lichtman at setter and Stanford's career digs leader Gabi Ailes at libero.

Sitting in the No. 5 spot is the University of Hawai'i, as veteran coach Dave Shoji's Rainbow Wahine return three starters, the libero and seven letterwinners back from last season which saw the team turn in a 32-3 record, capture the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) championship and secure a spot in the NCAA national semifinals. Leading the pack will be outside hitter Kanani Danielson, a two-time AVCA All-American, while setter Dani Mafua, an AVCA Honorable Mention All-America selection in 2009 is back to direct the offense.

Rounding out the top-ten are the University of Illinois and the University of Minnesota, who are in a tie for No. 6, followed by the University of Washington, Iowa State University and the University of Southern California.

The Division I volleyball season kicks off next weekend, with four of the poll's top-15 teams - Nebraska, Iowa State, Florida and Kentucky - clashing in the Runza/AVCA College Volleyball Showcase. The event, held at the Qwest Center in Omaha, Neb. on August 28 and 29, will pit the Big 12 against the Southeastern Conference (SEC) in a conference challenge format. Matches will be televised live on CBS College Sports Network, and tickets are available through Ticketmaster and the Qwest Center box office.

Click here for full Top 25!