Fresh off its first Ohio Valley Conference championship, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville will begin play in the 64-team NCAA Division I Softball Tournament Friday at second-seeded Alabama.
The Cougars (30-21) will play the Crimson Tide (45-11) at 7 p.m. Friday in a national game on ESPN3.com.
South Alabama (40-12), and South CarolinaUpstate (45-7), join SIUE and Alabama in the four-team, double-elimination regional to be played at John and Ann Rhoads Softball Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
SIUE watched the NCAA Tournament bracket announcement Sunday Bull and Bear in Edwardsville.
SIUE coach Sandy Montgomery said the Cougars are ready for the next level.
"It's a great feeling to be in the tournament and then to get to play at Alabama," Montgomery said. "They have a great tradition down there."
The Cougars may feel right at home against the competition, having played nine teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
The list includes LSU, No. 16 seed Minnesota, No. 8 seed Arizona State, No. 7 seed Oklahoma, No. 12 seed Washington, Kansas, Central Florida, Stetson, and Bradley.
"That''s why we played that schedule," Montgomery said. "It will be a challenge but we are going to give it our all."
SIUE is led by sophomore pitcher Haley Chambers (18-13), who added three wins this past week. Freshman second baseman Allison Smiley and senior shortstop Chelsea Yankolovich lead the offense with .321 batting averages.
The Cougars figure to be the underdog with three opponents which have accumulated 40 or more victories this season.
"No one in the country thinks we can win it, and that's OK," Montgomery said. "It's good to be the underdog."