URBANA (WCIA) — The Illinois softball team is looking to make history this weekend at the NCAA Columbia Regional. The Illini (34-20) have never qualified for a Super Regional in program history, the opportunity hangs in the balance the next three days with the first game in the Big Dance set for Friday afternoon at 3:30 p.m. against Arizona.

Only a handful of Illinois players have suited up in the NCAA tournament. The Illini last qualified in 2019, after the pandemic canceled the 2020 event. Playing a conference only schedule last season, Illinois missed the tourney cut. That overall lack of postseason experience isn’t slowing down the Illini though, who remain confident after finishing third in the Big Ten this season.

“The familiarity of it is still pretty new just cause I’ve only done it one other time but just the confidence and preparation of what our team has done this year is definitely a comfort going into the tournament,” Illinois senior infielder Avrey Steiner said.

The other two teams joining Illinois and Arizona in the Columbia Regional are host No. 15 seed Missouri and Missouri State.