The Nebraska volleyball team will begin the season ranked No. 4 in the AVCA coaches’ poll.
The preseason poll was released Monday afternoon with four Big Ten teams in the top 10.
Nebraska finished 12th in the final poll of 2011. Nebraska’s tradition probably helped its new ranking, but also the Huskers’ six returning starters, who include first-team All-American Gina Mancuso, All-Big Ten outside hitter Hannah Werth and senior setter Lauren Cook.
UCLA, the 2011 national champion, is preseason No. 1. The Bruins are followed by Texas, Penn State, Nebraska and Southern California.
UCLA received 54 of the 60 first-place votes. Nebraska was one of the five teams receiving first-place votes, with one vote.
The first big match of the season will be Aug. 25 when UCLA comes to Lincoln to play the Huskers. UCLA brings back five starters, including outside hitter Rachel Kidder, a first-team All-American and MVP of the NCAA Tournament last season.
Other ranked Big Ten teams are Illinois (seventh), Purdue (ninth), Minnesota (16th), Michigan (23rd) and Ohio State (24th).
Last year, Nebraska began the season ranked fifth. The Huskers were ranked No. 1 at midseason after beating top-ranked Illinois, but had only a one-week stay at the top after losing at Penn State. The Huskers entered the NCAA Tournament ranked No. 2 before dropping to 12th in the final poll with a 25-5 record.
Last week, at the team’s annual media day, head coach John Cook said he didn’t know where the Huskers would be ranked to start the season, and he wasn’t too concerned about it.
“The only thing that’s on my desk is where we finished last year, which is 12th in the country,” John Cook said. “That has been a focal point for us: Why did we end up in 12th? We’re going to start from there and start working our way up.”