Sports

Longhorns No. 1 in women’s volleyball poll

Texas, Wisconsin and defending NCAA champion Kentucky are 1-2-3 in the preseason AVCA women’s college volleyball poll, and each got first-place votes.

The Longhorns, the national runner-up last season, received 32 votes for the top spot, the Badgers 15 and the Wildcats 17. Wisconsin and No. 4 Washington were the other teams that made the Final Four last April.

The poll, which came out Monday, has six teams from both of the powerhouse conferences in volleyball. Along with the Wisconsin, the Big Ten has No. 5 Nebraska, No. 7 Minnesota, No. 8 Purdue, No. 11 Ohio State and No. 12 Penn State. Along with Washington, the Pac-12 has No. 14 Oregon, No. 17 UCLA, No. 18 Washington State, No. 19 Utah and No. 21 Stanford.

The Cardinal are nine-time national champions, but after going 2-8 in a season in which multiple matches were canceled because of COVID-19 protocols, Stanford missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since the event began in 1981. COVID-19 had a major impact overall on the volleyball season, as teams from several conferences — including the Big Ten and Pac-12 — didn’t compete in the traditional fall season and instead started play in January.

Teams from the ACC, Big 12 and SEC played in both the fall and winter/spring, and the Final Four, which is generally held in December, was instead in April. The NCAA tournament, which is typically made up of 64 teams, had just 48, also because of COVID-19.

Kentucky became the first SEC team to win the women’s volleyball championship. The other SEC team ranked in this preseason poll along with the Wildcats is No. 6 Florida. Like the SEC, the Big 12 (Texas, No. 10 Baylor) and Conference USA (No. 16 Western Kentucky, No. 23 Rice) each have two ranked teams.

The ACC has four ranked teams: No. 9 Pittsburgh, No. 13 Louisville, No. 24 Georgia Tech and No. 25 Notre Dame. The West Coast Conference has three: No. 15 BYU, No. 20 San Diego and No. 22 Pepperdine.

The two-time national champion Longhorns start the season Aug. 21 at LSU. Wisconsin opens by hosting the Big Ten/Big 12 Challenge on Aug. 27-28 with Minnesota, Baylor and TCU. Kentucky starts at the Dayton Tournament Aug. 27-28. The Final Four is Dec. 16-18 in Columbus, Ohio.

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