Champaign, Ill. (UI Release) -- Just 11 days before the start of the 2012 season, the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) has ranked Illinois No. 7 in its preseason poll.
The Fighting Illini are coming off a runner-up finish in the NCAA Championship a year ago and finished last season ranked No. 2, the highest the program has been ranked at the end of the season.
Illinois is one of seven Big Ten teams in the preseason rankings. Penn State (3), defending Big Ten champion Nebraska (4) and Purdue (9) join the Illini in the top 10 with Minnesota (16), Michigan (23) and Ohio State (24) also making the top 25.
The Illini will get a chance to test its spot early in the year, facing three of top-11 teams during the non-conference season. Illinois opens its home schedule with a pair of matches against No. 10 Iowa State on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1. The Illini travel to Texas for the Time Warner Texas Invitational on Sept. 14-15, facing the host Longhorns, who start the year at No. 2. In 2010, Illinois halted then No. 2 Texas' 25-match non-conference home court winning streak with a straight sets win that tournament. Pepperdine, who plays the Illini in the season-opening Dayton Flyer Classic, is No. 11.
Defending national champion UCLA begins the season at No. 1 followed by Texas, Penn State, Nebraska and USC. Stanford. Illinois, Hawaii, Purdue and Iowa State round out the top 10. Illini opponents Dayton, Michigan State, Louisville and Cincinnati are also receiving votes.
The Illini host the Alumni Event on Saturday night at 7 p.m.