OKLAHOMA CITY ?C The two-time defending national champion Arizona softball team can add the ESPN.com/USA Softball and the Pac-10 Coaches polls to its list of softball bodies to name the Wildcats the preseason No. 1 team in the nation and conference, respectively.
The Wildcats received 14 of a possible 20 first-place votes in the USA Softball poll; just five days after UA captured the first position in 27 of the 29 ballots cast in the USA Today/NFCAˇ?s preseason poll.
The Pac-10 poll was considerably closer, as the leagueˇ?s coaches selected UA over in-state rival Arizona State by the slimmest of margins ?C 45 points to 44 ?C as the two 2007 WCWS participants split eight first-place votes.
"Obviously, the early season polls are not necessarily indicative of how the season will play out," interim head coach Larry Ray said. "We would much rather be ranked No. 1 in June, but at the same time it is an honor to be recognized as one of the top teams. Now our team is just going to have to go out and execute on the field."
UAˇ?s top-billing in the USA Softball and NFCA polls marks the 18th consecutive year in which the Wildcats have been ranked No. 1 for at least part of the year in the national rankings.
Regardless of outsider expectations, history proves the Wildcats to be a wise choice following a national championship. UA has appeared in the national title game after every one of its national championships and has won six of seven Pac-10 Championships in those campaigns.
The Wildcats are coming off a 2007 season in which they posted a 50-14-1 record en route to the 10th Pacific-10 Conference title and eighth NCAA Championship in program history.
Arizona returns six position starters and All-American pitcher Taryne Mowatt, as UA seeks the first three-peat in program history.
The Wildcats open their title defense in Tempe at the Kajikawa Classic on Feb. 15 against Notre Dame. The next day UA will be put to the test with consecutive games against top-10 foes Northwestern and Texas A&M.
UAˇ?s schedule does not get any easier, as the Wildcats are slated to face seven of the top 10 teams over the course of the season and to play 29 games against squads ranked in the Top 25.
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ESPN.com/USA Softball Preseason Poll
1. Arizona (14)
2. Arizona St. (3)
3. Texas A&M (2)
10 UCLA (1)
15. Virginia Tech
18. Georgia Tech
19. Oregon State
22. Ohio State
T24. Cal St. Fullerton
Italics denote 2008 UA opponent
Others receiving votes:?Massachusetts (21); South Carolina (18); California (17); Houston (16); Florida State (14); Fresno State (13); Creighton (13); Nebraska (13); Georgia (13); North Carolina (12); Louisville (7); Southern Illinois (6); Long Beach State (6); Loyola Marymount (6); BYU (6); South Florida (5); Illinois State (5); Mississippi State (4); NC State (2); UNLV (2); Cal Poly ?C San Luis Obispo (2).
Pac-10 Coaches Poll
1. Arizona (4)
2. Arizona State (4)
7. Oregon State