CHANDLER, Ariz. – The defending national champion University of Delaware field hockey team received its highest-ever ranking as No. 3 in the Penn Monto/National Field Hockey Coaches Association (NFHCA) Division I Preseason Poll.

The Blue Hens, who captured the program’s first-ever NCAA Division I Field Hockey Championship in 2016, collected seven first place votes and a total of 1,003 points. Delaware, which finished last season as No. 8 in the NFHCA Poll, has never been ranked higher than No. 6, a ranking that came during the 1998 campaign.

North Carolina earned the No. 1 spot in the preseason poll by recording 1,137 points and 14 first place votes, while Duke was right behind at 1,081 points and 15 first place votes.

The Tar Heels fell to the Blue Hens in the national championship game last season, 3-2, while Duke, then ranked No. 1, dropped a 3-2 overtime contest to Delaware in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

UD was followed closely by Connecticut with 993 points and four first-place votes and Syracuse with 978 points to round out the top five.

Maryland came in sixth in the ranking with 949 points, and was followed in order by No. 7 Penn State, No. 8 Princeton, No. 9 Louisville and No. 10 Virginia to round out the top ten. Each of the five schools received at least one first-place selection in the voting.

The next Penn Monto/NFHCA Division I Coaches Poll will be announced on Tuesday, September 5. The poll is voted on by NFHCA member coaches, and has no bearing on selection to the 2017 NCAA Division I Field Hockey Championship.

The Blue Hens kick off the 2017 campaign this weekend by traveling to Louisville for contests against Indiana (Saturday, 1 p.m.) and the Cardinals (Sunday, noon). Delaware defeated Louisville last season, 1-0, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Duke University.

The Hens return to Fred P. Rullo Stadium on September 1 for their home opener against Dartmouth. First pass back is slated for 7 p.m. with a pre-game ceremony to unveil the 2016 NCAA Championship sign.

MEDIA CONTACT: Maggie Hayon, Assistant Athletics Communications Director | mhayon@udel.edu | O: 302-831-6389 | C: 302-379-9182