ess than three weeks before the 2014 season-opener, the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) has ranked Illinois No. 11 in its Division I preseason poll.
Coming off of an 18-15 2013 finish that included its fifth appearance in the NCAA Regional (round of 16) in the past six seasons, Illinois is one of seven Big Ten teams selected in the preseason top 25 poll. Defending NCAA and Big Ten champion Penn State took the No. 1 spot while Wisconsin (No. 6), Nebraska (No. 7), and Purdue (No. 8) all made appearances in the top 10. Minnesota was right behind the Illini at No. 12 while Michigan State was slated at No. 16. Michigan also received votes.
Nine of the Fighting Illini's 24 regular season opponents are ranked in the top 25 including non-conference opponents Stanford, North Carolina and Creighton. An additional three non-Big Ten opponents received votes including Colorado, UCLA and Long Beach State. Illinois will have a chance to defend its ranking early as four of the Fighting Illini's first five opponents were in the top 25 or received votes. Head coach Kevin Hambly's unit will open the season by hosting the Illini Classic that includes No. 20 North Carolina and Long Beach State followed by a visit to California to take on UCLA and No. 3 Stanford.
Penn State took the No. 1 spot followed by Texas, Stanford, Washington and USC rounded out the top five respectively. Wisconsin, Nebraska, Purdue, BYU and Florida filled spots six through 10.
The Illini will host the Alumni Match on Saturday, August 23rd in Huff Hall at 7:00 p.m. before opening the season with the Illini Classic on August 29th and 30th.