LOUISVILLE, Ky. — For the first time in school history, the Tennessee softball team will begin the season ranked No. 1.
The Lady Vols sat atop the 2014 USA Today/NFCA Division I Top 25 Preseason Poll released Tuesday by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association.
Tennessee has been No. 1 during the regular season, in May 2007. UT's previous highest preseason ranking was No. 2, also in 2007.
UT totaled seven first-place votes. Defending national champion Oklahoma held the second spot and had 17 first-place votes. Washington (one No. 1 vote), Florida (six) and Michigan (one) were third through fifth.
Three Southeastern Conference teams were among the top 10 in the rankings: Tennessee, No. 4 Florida and No. 6 Alabama. The SEC placed a poll-high eight teams in the top 25 overall, with Texas A&M 11th, Kentucky 12th, Missouri 14th, LSU 17th, and Georgia 23rd.
The Lady Vols are coming off one of the finest seasons in program history. In 2013, they finished as the national runner-up, made their sixth Women's College World Series appearance in nine years and posted their eighth 50-win season with a final record of 52-12.
UT returns several key players from its Women's College World run, including All-America seniors Ellen Renfroe and Madison Shipman.
Tennessee opens the 2014 season on Feb. 7 against Northern Colorado in the Georgia Southern tournament in Statesboro, Ga. The Lady Vols open their home slate with a doubleheader against Wright State on March 5. UT's first SEC home series is March 21-23 against South Carolina.