When UC Irvine men's volleyball team was ranked No. 1 nationally in a preseason coaches poll, the campus sports information office noted that honor in a preseason poll was a first for the team, which was ranked second in the country each of the past three years.
That's quite an achievement--well, quite an achievement before play actually starts--but it got us wondering if any previous Anteaters squad, in any sport, had ever been ranked No. 1 in the U.S. in a preseason poll.
After all, while UCI has since its 1965 founding assembled fine teams in several sports, like soccer, volleyball and basketball in recent years, it hasn't exactly been a go-to university for Sportscenter analysts, being much better known for academic over athletic prowess.
So, when we put the question about other teams being No. 1 in previous preseason polls to the sports info desk, we were as surprised as anyone by the answer:
"Men's water polo was ranked No. 1 in the 1982 preseason poll" was the reply. "We went on to finish 30-0 and obviously win the NCAA title that season."
Now, that's athletic prowess!
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Here's hoping the volleyball team, which is coached by David "Don't Call Me Lane" Kniffin, repeats that kind of success. Despite only being named head coach last July, Kniffin saw his fellow coaches around the country express their awe at his program, which received all 16 first place votes to take the No. 1 national ranking in the American Volleyball Division I-II Men's Coaches Preseason Top 15 Poll released last Friday.
Of course, having ended the previous season with a 26-5 record and the national championship helps get your team such notice among voters. It was the Anteaters' third national title in the past six seasons.
The team opened this season with an exhibition victory over Concordia of Irvine Wednesday, and they are playing at the Santa Barbara Invitational today.