CHAMPAIGN — Illinois isn’t ranked in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America preseason Top 25, but Janet Rayfield’s squad didn’t miss by much.
The Illini, who return seven starters from a 2012 team that reached the NCAA tournament’s second round, were third among other teams receiving votes and 28th overall in the balloting.
The NSCAA preseason poll was announced Tuesday.
“I never put too much stock in the polls, and the preseason poll is probably the least accurate one of them all,” Rayfield said. “No one knows what transitions have occurred, what players have blossomed and developed, and what freshmen have come into college ready to play.”
Also Tuesday, Illinois was ranked No. 17 by TopDrawerSoccer.com, making it the second-highest ranked Big Ten team in that poll. In the NSCAA poll, however, three Big Ten teams received more votes than the Illini.
Either way, says Rayfield, voters are paying attention to Illinois.
“To me, that means that we are capable of competing with the top teams in the country,” she said, “and that is certainly our expectation and what we have been training hard for — not just these last few days but since we reconvened in January after the 2012 season.”
Defending NCAA champion North Carolina was ranked No. 1 by both the NSCAA and Top Drawer.
Three Big Ten teams earned spots in the NSCAA Top 25: No. 4 Penn State, No. 19 Michigan and No. 23 Ohio State.
Fellow conference members joining Illinois in the Top Drawer Top 25 were No. 5 Penn State and No. 23 Michigan.
Also Tuesday, the Big Ten released its preseason poll. Illinois checked in at No. 3 behind No. 1 Penn State and No. 2 Michigan.
Big Ten Women's Soccer Preseason Coaches' Poll
1. Penn State
4. Ohio State
10. Michigan State