The Stanford women's volleyball team was tabbed the preseason favorite by a vote of Pac-12 coaches it was announced Thursday.
The Cardinal, which has won six of the last eight conference championships, returns four starters and its libero from last year's team, which finished 27-6 and advanced to the Regional Final in the NCAA Tournament.
Stanford and USC each received five first-place votes, with the Cardinal getting 114 points to USC's 113. Defending conference champion Washington was named the favorite on two ballots.
Stanford, which has captured 15 Pac-10/12 championships since 1986, has been selected by the coaches to win the title for the 13th time in poll history. The coaches have correctly chosen the champion 17 times out of the past 28 polls. The Cardinal has finished first or second in the conference 26 out of 28 seasons.
Stanford returns nine letterwinners, which reached at least a regional final for the ninth time under coach John Dunning. Junior middle blocker Inky Ajanaku returns as a first team AVCA All-American, while junior Madi Bugg, the 2013 Pac-12 Setter of the Year, earned second team accolades. Senior libero Kyle Gilbert and junior outside hitter Jordan Burgess were AVCA honorable mention All-Americans.
Ajanaku, Bugg and Burgess all earned spots on the Preseason All-Pac-12 squad. Joining them was junior outside hitter Brittany Howard, who nabbed a spot on the preseason team for the second consecutive year. Stanford led all teams with four selections. USC and Washington each had two players selected.
The regular season begins on Friday, Aug. 29 when Stanford travels to Ames, Iowa, to face Iowa State at 5 p.m. (PT) on the Pac-12 Networks.