The Stanford women's volleyball team begins the season ranked No. 3 nationally as the American Volleyball Coaches Association revealed its annual preseason poll Monday. The Cardinal is the only program in the nation to appear in the top 10 of every preseason poll since its inception in 1982.
Stanford, which received seven first-place votes, returns five starters from last year's team that went 27-6, finished second in the Pac-12 and advanced to the NCAA Lexington Regional Final. Stanford is one of two teams, with Penn State, to appear in all 32 NCAA women's volleyball tournaments.
In all, the Cardinal returns nine letterwinners, including four All-Americans in Inky Ajanaku, Madi Bugg, Jordan Burgess and Kyle Gilbert.
Junior outside hitter Brittany Howard also returns. She joined Ajanaku, Bugg and Burgess on the Preseason All-Pac-12 Conference team.
Defending national champion Penn State, earned the top spot in the poll with 32 first-place votes, followed by Texas which garnered 11 first-place votes. Rounding out the top 5 were Washington and USC (two first-place votes).
Overall four Pac-12 teams are ranked in the top 25, including No. 25 Arizona State, while Oregon, California, Arizona, Colorado and UCLA are all receiving votes.
The Cardinal is scheduled to play 10 regular-season matches against top-25 teams, including its home opener against the Nittany Lions on Sept. 5.
Other ranked nonconference opponents are at No. 7 Nebraska, versus No. 11 Illinois, at No. 14 San Diego and against No. 21 Duke.
Stanford opens the season in Ames, Iowa, as it takes on Iowa State, which is receiving votes, on Friday, Aug. 29 at 5 p.m. PT on the Pac-12 Networks.