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Texas voted into preseason polls' prime positions for the 2021 softball season

Texas outfielder MK Tedder (22) celebrates with infielder Lauren Burke (00) during a postseason game against Sam Houston State on May 17, 2019 in Austin.

This softball season, Texas will be expected to contend for both a conference title and a national championship.

Texas fared well in the preseason polls that were recently released by the Big 12 and National Fastpitch Coaches Association. The Longhorns were picked to finish second by the Big 12's coaches. Texas was also the sixth team listed in the NFCA's preseason rankings for the entire country.

Oklahoma edged Texas by one point in the Big 12's preseason poll. Four of the conference's coaches gave Oklahoma their first-place votes. Texas earned the three other first-place nods. Excluding a 2020 season that was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic, Oklahoma has won the Big 12's last eight regular-season titles.

The NFCA's preseason poll was topped by UCLA, which received all 32 first-place votes and a perfect score of 800 points. Texas (611 points) then trailed Washington (748), Arizona (717), Oklahoma (708) and LSU (644) in the rankings.

Last year, Texas went 24-3 during its coronavirus-shortened campaign. In the NFCA's final poll for the 2020 season, Texas was ranked third.

All-American infielder Janae Jefferson is among the key returnees in the UT dugout. Of the 10 Longhorns who recorded at least 40 at-bats last season, eight are still on the roster. Pitchers Shealyn O'Leary and Courtney Day combined to go 11-0 in 2020, and the team added freshman Ryleigh White and graduate transfer Molly Jacobsen to its arsenal of arms.

But the Longhorns were dealt a significant blow earlier this month when fifth-year senior Miranda Elish opted out of the 2021 season. An ace pitcher who also hit .370 last season, Elish won Softball America's player of the year award in 2020.