(Hawaii Athletics) - The 2018 AVCA collegiate beach volleyball preseason poll was released Monday with the Rainbow Wahine coming in at No. 5. Defending NCAA champion USC is slotted as the preseason favorite.
This is the fourth time in six years that UH has been picked fifth in the preseason. UH was picked No. 5 last season, before finishing a program-best third in the final poll.
"We try not to put a whole lot of weight in polls," fourth-year head coach Jeff Hall said. "especially early in the season. We've exceeded expectations in the past and we aim to do that again this year."
USC is followed in the rankings by No. 2 Pepperdine, No. 3 UCLA, and No. 4 Florida State. The Rainbow Wahine will open the season this Saturday at home versus the No. 3 Bruins as well as No. 17 Stanford.
Big West brethren Long Beach State (7) and Cal Poly (14) are also ranked. In all, 13 Top 20 teams are on UH's regular-season schedule, including No. 1 USC, which will compete in the Outrigger Resort Hawaii Invitational, March 17-18, at Queen's Beach.
UH returns eight starters from last year's squad that went 29-7 and placed third at the NCAA Championship. Among the returnees are 2016 AVCA All-American Emily Maglio and 2017 All-American Morgan Martin. Five other all-Big West players also return, while UH welcomes a recruiting class that includes two high school All-Americans and some of the top talent from Canada.
The NCAA Championship will once again be held in Gulf Shores, Ala., in early May.