The Washington State women got some added motivation Tuesday.
Despite returning four starters from a squad that tied for second in the Pac-12 Conference last year, the Cougars are forecast to finish in the bottom half of the standings this year.
WSU finished seventh in both the coaches’ and media preseason polls.
Defending champion Stanford was the runaway favorite in both ballots. The Cardinal, coming off back-to-back Final Four appearances, earned all 11 available first-place votes in the coaches’ poll and 121 overall and all 28 in the medial balloting (336 total).
Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own team.
Oregon was picked to finish second in the coaches’ poll with 101 points, one point ahead of third-place Arizona. The teams switched spots in the media vote, with the Wildcats second (291 points) and Ducks third (275 points).
Team Nos. 4-12 were the same in both polls, with UCLA leading that group in fourth and followed by Utah in fifth. The Utes, last season’s Pac-12 Tournament runner-up, received the remaining first-place vote in the coaches’ poll. Oregon State was selected sixth to round out the polls’ top half.
WSU finished with 61 overall points in the coaches’ poll, one point behind OSU. The Cougars were nine points back of the Beavers in the media poll, with 170 overall.
In both polls, the final four teams were USC, Washington, California and Arizona State.
The Cougars won a program-record conference games last year, finished 19-11 overall and reached the NCAA Tournament for the second straight season.
Going into her fifth year, WSU coach Kamie Ethridge returns starters Charlisse Leger-Walker, Bella Murekatete, Johanna Teder and Ula Motuga.
WSU opens the season with an exhibition Sunday at 2 p.m. against visiting Westmont of California.
The regular season begins Nov. 7, when Loyola Marymount visits Washington State for a noon tipoff.
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