Jan. 21, 2014
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky softball team is ranked 12th in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association Division I Preseason Top 25, earning its highest preseason ranking in school history, the NFCA announced Tuesday.
The school-record preseason ranking for Kentucky bests the 2012 team’s No. 13 preseason ranking in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25. UK, which was not ranked in last season’s preseason listing, finished the 2013 season with a school-record 41 wins en route to an appearance in an NCAA Super Regional and No. 14 final ranking. The Wildcats return 15 letterwinners from that accomplished squad, including eight starters and two starting pitchers.
“This preseason ranking speaks to the hard work that our current team and every former player has put in, but in the big picture our team knows there is more work to do,” said Rachel Lawson, who is entering her seventh season as the Wildcats’ head coach. “We have a veteran bunch this year that knows the discipline and focus it takes to be successful and we are solely concentrated on that and getting as prepared as possible for our spring schedule.”
The No. 12 preseason ranking is also the highest-ever preseason, regular season or final ranking for Kentucky in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25. Since entering the USA Today/NFCA Poll on Feb. 12, 2013 the Wildcats have been ranked in 16 consecutive listings, which is the second-longest streak in school history. UK was ranked in 17 consecutive polls from February 2011 to February 2012.
Kentucky will have to work hard to keep its high ranking as it is scheduled to play 25 games against 12 teams that are ranked or receiving votes in the preseason poll. The Wildcats will have three-game sets with No. 1 Tennessee, No. 11 Texas A&M, No. 14 Missouri, No. 23 Georgia, Arkansas and Auburn, who are both receiving votes. UK will play a home-and-home series against No. 19 Louisville and single games against No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 5 Michigan, No. 10 Texas, Long Beach State and WKU, who are both receiving votes.
The Southeastern Conference led the way overall with eight total selections to the top 25 with No. 1 Tennessee, No. 4 Florida, No. 6 Alabama, No. 11 Texas A&M, No. 12 Kentucky, No. 14 Missouri, No. 17 LSU and No. 23 Georgia. The Pac-12 Conference boasted six teams and the Big 12 Conference three teams in the rankings. The Big 10 Conference, the American Athletic Conference and the Sun Belt Conference each boasted a pair of squads in the listing, while the Atlantic Coast Conference and Conference USA each saw a single team among the top 25.
The USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 is voted on by 32 NCAA Division I head coaches, one representing each conference.
Kentucky will begin its 18th season on Feb. 6 in Long Beach, Calif., at the Mizuno Invitational. The Wildcats will play five games in the west coast tournament beginning with their season opener vs. Santa Clara.
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Others Receiving Votes: Hawai’i (86), Arizona (45), Arkansas (28), Hofstra (27), Tulsa (23), Wisconsin (21), N.C. State (16), Auburn (10), Long Beach State (8), Notre Dame (8), Virginia Tech (8), Houston (6), BYU (5), Oregon State (3), North Carolina (2), Western Kentucky (1)