NORMAN, Okla. – The defending national champion Oklahoma softball team has been ranked second in the USA Today/NFCA Division I Preseason Top 25, it was announced Tuesday.
The Sooners received a nation’s best 17 first-place votes in the poll, but trail No. 1 Tennessee by nine points in the rankings, 729-720. The Lady Volunteers, whom Oklahoma swept in the Women’s College World Series Championship Series a year ago, earned seven first-place votes. Also receiving first-place votes were No. 3 Washington (1), No. 4 Florida (6) and No. 5 Michigan (1).
The No. 2 ranking garnered by OU is tied for the best preseason mark in school history. The Sooners were also ranked second to start 2001 after winning the program’s first national title in 2000, as well as opening up at No. 2 a year ago.
Oklahoma’s 2014 schedule features 10 teams ranked in the preseason poll. After opening the season against No. 12 Kentucky on Feb. 7, the Sooners are also scheduled to face No. 3 Washington, No. 7 Arizona State, No. 9 Nebraska, No. 13 Louisiana Lafayette, No. 16 UCLA, No. 17 LSU and No. 21 UAB in out-of-conference contests.
Within the Big 12, Texas opened at No. 10, while Baylor was ranked 18th. In addition, scheduled opponents Arkansas, Oregon State and Tulsa were all receiving votes in the preseason poll.
Oklahoma returns seven starters from last season’s national championship team that finished 57-4 overall and 15-2 in the Big 12 to earn its second straight conference title. Among those returning are USA Softball National Player of the Year finalist Lauren Chamberlain, Second-Team All-American Shelby Pendley and Second-Team All-Region honoree Destinee Martinez.
The Sooners are the only team to be ranked in every NFCA Poll since its inception in 1995, a streak that now sits at 274 consecutive polls.