NORMAN, Okla. The University of Oklahoma softball team is slotted at No. 13 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top-25 Preseason Poll, which was announced on Tuesday afternoon. The Sooners have held a top-25 preseason ranking in all four years the poll has been in existence.
Oklahoma is one of six Big 12 schools in the poll, three of which are ranked among the top 10. In addition, the top-25 list features nine of the Sooners’ opponents this season.
The defending National Champions, the Michigan Wolverines return 13 players in 2006 and hold the top spot in the preseason poll. Following Michigan is perennial power, UCLA, whom the Sooners face in the Palm Springs Classic. Rounding out the top-five are Tennessee (No. 3), Texas (No. 4) and Arizona in the fifth spot. The Longhorns received one first place vote in the preseason poll.
Texas A&M, the defending Big 12 champions, sit in the No. 6 slot, followed by California (No. 7), Alabama (No. 8), Stanford (No. 9) and Big 12 opponent Baylor rounding out the top 10. Sandwiched between Baylor and Oklahoma are Georgia at No. 11 and Oregon State in the 12th spot.
Other Big 12 schools in the top 25 include Missouri in the 18th slot and Nebraska claiming the 22nd spot in the preseason coaches 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.
The Sooners, who did not earn a preseason top 10 ranking for the first time in five years, graduated a four-player senior class that tallied 11 All-Big 12, seven All-Midwest Region and four All-America honors during their careers. However, Oklahoma does return All-Americans Kristin Vesely and Norrelle Dickson along with two other starters from a 2005 squad that claimed the NCAA Regional 14 Championship.
OU kicks off the 2006 campaign with its annual Meet the Team banquet next Friday, Feb. 3 at 6:30 p.m. inside the J.D. McCarthy Center at 6:30 p.m. Tickets ($20) are still available for the ceremony. For tickets call Shelly Harmon at (405) 325-8361.
The Sooners will open their season in Las Vegas, Nev., at the UNLV Alexis Resort Kickoff Classic (Feb. 10-12) where they will face preseason No. 14 Washington in their opening game.