(Photo by Jeff Wood)
PROVO -- BYU's women's volleyball team is one of three Mountain West Conference teams ranked in the USA Today/AVCA Preseason Top-25 Coaches Poll, released Monday by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. The Cougars , who finished last season at No. 22, open this season as the 23rd-ranked team under first-year head coach Karen Lamb.
Including this year's preseason ranking, BYU has been ranked during each of the 21 seasons since the poll was started in 1982. In the history of the poll, only five teams have ever been ranked more frequently than BYU, who has appeared in the weekly rankings 252 out of a possible 270 weeks.
Playing a tough 2002 schedule, BYU will face eight opponents ranked in the preseason poll. The Cougars open their home season with No. 3 USC on Sept. 5 and also host No. 7 Florida on Sept. 7. BYU also plays No. 4 Hawaii, No. 6 Arizona, No. 17 Texas A&M, and No. 19 Illinois in non-league play and No. 13 Utah and No. 18. Colorado State during its MWC schedule.
For the second straight year, BYU, Colorado State and Utah each cracked the top 25 in the preseason poll. The MWC is one of just five conferences with three or more teams ranked (Big Ten - 5, Big XII - 4, Pac 10 - 4, Big West - 3).
Utah, which was 15th in the 2001 final poll, earned its first-ever NCAA Sweet 16 berth last season, while Colorado State, ranked No. 10 at the end of last season, is coming off its third straight Sweet 16 appearance. BYU was eliminated in the first round a year ago after five straight Sweet 16 trips, including three trips to the Elite Eight. Last year BYU received its 12th consecutive NCAA tournament invitation and 20th in the 21 years.
MWC teams open the season Aug. 30-31 with all eight teams in action. BYU starts that weekend on the road, facing Gonzaga, Nevada and host Washington State at the Cougar Challenge in Pullman, Wash.
Full details of the USA Today/AVCA Coaches Top 25 Preseason Poll can be viewed on the AVCA web site at http://www.avca.org.