Nine Illini opponents listed in top 25
The American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) has released its preseason poll for the 2015 season, placing the University of Illinois at No. 8. It is the highest preseason rank for the Illini since 2012, when the Fighting Illini were coming off a national runner-up finish.
Illinois returns a majority of its starters from the 2014 NCAA Sweet 16 team, including two-time All-American Jocelynn Birks, Big Ten All-Freshman libero Brandi Donnelly, and two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week Katie Stadick, while bringing in the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, comprised of top-50 stars Jordyn Poulter, Ali Bastianelli and Beth Prince.
The two-time defending National Champion Penn State Nittany Lions took the top spot in the AVCA Preseason Poll, followed by Illini opponent No. 2 Stanford (Sept. 4). Big Ten foes Nebraska and Wisconsin tied for fifth, behind No. 3 Texas and No. 4 Florida.
The Big Ten has a total of six members ranked in the top 25, including four of the top eight, with Ohio State coming in at No. 14 and Michigan State placing No. 19. Additionally, Purdue, Minnesota and Michigan are receiving votes.
The Illini will face four ranked teams in preconference tournaments, including No. 15 Kentucky (Sept. 11), No. 16 Arizona State (Sept. 19) and No. 24 Colorado (Sept. 5), while Creighton (Aug. 29) and Wichita State (Sept. 12) are receiving votes.
The Fighting Illini open the regular season at home on Aug. 28, hosting Louisville for Stuff Huff as part of the Illini Classic. The Orange and Blue will host Miami (Ohio) the following morning, and will finish off the weekend against RV Creighton at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 29.