The three-time defending Big 12 champion Oklahoma softball team will start the 2015 season ranked fourth in the USA Today/NFCA Division I Preseason Top 25, which was released Tuesday.
Oklahoma's No. 4 ranking is tied for the fourth-best preseason mark in school history. The only start that was better came when the Sooners were ranked No. 2 in 2014, 2013 and 2001. OU, which finished fifth in the final 2014 rankings, has now been ranked fifth or better in the preseason poll in each of the last four seasons.
The Sooners, who received one of 29 first-place votes in the poll, trail No. 1 Florida by 86 points for first place. The defending national champion Gators took 20 first-place votes to put themselves ahead of No. 2 Oregon (eight first-place votes) and No. 3 Alabama. After Oklahoma, Florida State rounds out the preseason top five.
Oklahoma's 2015 schedule features eight teams ranked in the preseason poll. After opening the season against No. 25 DePaul on Feb. 5, the Sooners are also scheduled to face No. 6 Kentucky, No. 11 Washington, No. 12 Georgia, No. 14 Arizona, No. 16 Arizona State and No. 19 LSU in out-of-conference contests. In addition, Hofstra was receiving votes.
Within the Big 12, Baylor opened at No. 10, while Texas was receiving votes.
Oklahoma returns nine student-athletes who started in at least half of the games for last season's squad. The 2014 Sooners won an unprecedented third straight Big 12 title and reached the Women's College World Series for the fourth year in a row, which is the longest active streak in the country.
Among the returners are senior All-Americans Lauren Chamberlain and Shelby Pendley. Fellow senior Georgia Casey is also back after being named All-Region along with juniors Whitney Ellis, Kady Self and Kelsey Stevens.
The Sooners are the only team to be ranked in every NFCA Poll since its inception in 1995, a streak that now sits at 290 consecutive polls.