Illinois ranked in two pre-season polls

Second Team All-Big Ten perfomer Jenna Hall and the Illini are ranked 22nd in the nation.
Second Team All-Big Ten perfomer Jenna Hall and the Illini are ranked 22nd in the nation.

Jan. 26, 2005

Complete Softball poll
Complete USA Today/NFCA poll

Just nine days before the start of the softball season, both major polls released their Top 25 rankings. Illinois, who opens the season on Feb. 4 in Waco, Texas, the site of last year's NCAA Regional Tournament, is ranked 22nd in the USA Today/NFCA poll and 25th in the Softball poll.

Illinois, who ended the season ranked 17th nationally and advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 a year ago, face many of the top teams this year. California, who the Illini meet on March 20 in Sacramento, Calif., is ranked #1 in both polls after finishing second at the Women's College World Series last season. On Feb. 12 in Las Vegas, Nev., the Illini meet two teams who advanced to the World Series -- #5/8 LSU and #9 Washington. Michigan is the only other Big Ten school in the rankings, listed at #8 in the NFCA poll and #12 in the USA Softball poll. Other ranked teams on the Illini's schedule include #6/5 Stanford, #17/18 Baylor, #21/22 South Florida, #24/23 Southern Illinois and #25 Hofstra. Illinois opponents who received votes in either poll include Massachusetts, Iowa, Northwestern, Oklahoma State, DePaul, and Michigan State.

This is the fourth year that Illinois has appeared in the Top 25, but the first year that the Illini have been in the Pre-season rankings. "While it is true that it's not where you start, it's where you finish, we are pleased to see Illinois mentioned in both pre-season polls this year," said Illinois Head Coach Terri Sullivan. "That shows the respect that we have gained for our program and the respect for the players we have returning. While we are one of only two Big Ten teams in the rankings, I believe others will be there as the season progresses. Our goal now is to follow the lead of many of teams on campus like tennis, basketball, soccer, gymnastics, and wrestling, and build upon the early season recognition."

Illinois plays in six pre-season tournaments starting next week before starting Big Ten play on April 1 at Northwestern. The home opener at Eichelberger Field is April 6 vs. Loyola.