Tennessee secures No 1 spot in the ESPNcom USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 PreSeason Poll

By Steven Embree | Jan. 28, 2014, 12 a.m. (ET)

OKLAHOMA CITY — A season removed from a runner-up finish at the NCAA Women’s College World Series (WCWS), the Lady Vols of Tennessee have secured the No. 1 spot in the pre-season ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll the Amateur Softball Association (ASA) of America and USA Softball announced today. Tennessee claimed six of the 20 first place votes in the poll.

Click here to see the complete listing of the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate 2014 Top 25 Pre-Season Poll.

At the 2013 NCAA WCWS in Oklahoma City, the Lady Vols started 3-0 to earn a spot in the Championship Series before falling to the Oklahoma Sooners in the best two out of three series. The Lady Vols seize to top ranking from the No. 2 Sooners, who earned their second National Championship in program history last year and finished the 2013 season at No. 1.  This marks the second year in a row the Sooners start the season at No. 2 after receiving five first place votes in this year's pre-season poll.

The Florida Gators matched Tennessee’s six first place votes and come in ranked No. 3 to start the year.  Michigan, coming off of a 51-13 season a year ago, falls in at No. 4 and Washington, who received two first place votes, rounds out the top five.

All eight teams that competed in the 2013 NCAA WCWS start the 2014 season in the Top 10.  The seventh ranked Arizona State Sun Devils received one first place vote while Nebraska comes in at No. 9 and Texas at No. 10.  Filling out the remaining spots in the Top 10 are No. 6 Alabama  and Oregon at No. 8.

The Southeastern Conference (SEC) leads the way with eight teams ranked in the pre-season Top 25, while the Pac-12 boasts six squads in the first poll. The Big 12 is represented by three teams in the pre-season poll and the American Athletic Conference (AAC), Big 10 and Sun Belt each have two. The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) and Conference USA each have one team among the Top 25.

Of the teams ranked in the pre-season poll, five squads had athletes on the 2013 USA Softball Women’s National Team.  Oklahoma is led by Destinee Martinez (Corona, Calif.) and Lauren Chamberlain (Trabuco Canyon, Calif.), who was a Top 3 Finalist for USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year in 2013.  Amber Freeman (Lakewood, Calif.) plays for Arizona State, Cheridan Hawkins (Anderson, Calif.) for Oregon, Taylor Thom (Cedar Park, Texas) with Texas and Sara Nevins (Pinellas Park, Fla.) and Kourtney Salvarola (Arnold, Md.) at South Florida.

The ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll is currently in its 12th year. Starting Feb. 11, regular season polls will be released for 14 consecutive Tuesdays with the final poll of the season to be released on June 10 following the NCAA WCWS. The first of 14 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Week accolades will also be announced on Feb. 11 with a new player chosen each Tuesday of the regular season.

In addition to conducting the ESPN.com/USA Softball collegiate Top 25 Poll and the USA Softball Player of the Week, ASA/USA Softball is also in the 13th season of the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year award. The Top 50 Watch List for the USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year will be announced Jan. 29 with the Top 25 announced April 9, the Top 10 announced May 7 and the Top 3 announced May 21. The 2014 USA Softball Collegiate Player of the Year will be revealed May 27.