Stanford Softball Ranked Ninth in ESPN.com/USA Softball Preseason Poll
Jan. 24, 2006
Oklahoma City, Okla. - For the first time ever a team outside of the Pac-10 Conference sits atop the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Pre-season Poll. The University of Michigan, from the Big Ten Conference, will start the 2006 season just as it finished 2005 as the No. 1 team in the country. Michigan returns 13 players from its 2005 championship team including pitching sensation Jennie Ritter.
Perennial power UCLA, who returns all of its starters from the 2005 roster that finished second in the NCAA WCWS, is ranked No. 2 after garnering three firstplace votes. The University of Tennessee, who finished third last season in its appearance at the World Series, will begin the 2006 season at No. 3 and will be bolstered by eight starters from last year's 67-15 squad.
The Texas Longhorns, led by 2005 USA Softball Player of the Year Cat Osterman (Houston, Texas), enter the 2006 season ranked No. 4, their highest pre-season ranking in school history. Joining Pac-10 rival UCLA in the top five is Arizona, who finished one point behind Texas to secure the No. 5 spot. The Wildcats return four All-Americans including three-time All-America pitcher Alicia Hollowell (Suisun, Calif.) and 2005 USA Softball Player of the Year Finalist Caitlin Lowe (Tustin, Calif.).
No. 6 Texas A&M is coming off one of its best seasons in school history, highlighted by the school's first-ever regular season conference title. No. 7 California returns eight players from its 2005 team that finished 52-15 and made a seventh consecutive trip to the World Series. No. 8 Alabama, No. 9 Stanford and No. 10 Baylor round out the Top 10 respectively.
No. 23 Florida and No. 25 BYU are the only teams in the pre-season poll that were not ranked at the conclusion of the 2005 season. These schools replace Southern Illinois and Bethune-Cookman who jumped into the final poll of 2005 after stellar performances in the NCAA Tournament.
The Pac-10 leads all conferences with four teams in the top 10 (UCLA, Arizona, California and Stanford) and two others among the top 25. The Big 12 Conference, which has three teams in the top 10 (Texas, Texas A&M and Baylor), also has a total of six representatives in the top 25. The SEC is well represented with two representatives in the top 10 and five overall in the poll.
The ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 poll is voted on by NCAA Division I coaches representing 15 different ASA regions and 11 different collegiate conferences. The poll is also voted on by selected softball media members. First-place votes are in parentheses. Log on to www.usasoftball.com for weekly Top 25 Polls and USA Softball `Player of the Week' honors, which will begin February 7. Also look for the 2006 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year 'Watch List' to be announced on January 31.