Illinois has been waiting for three years to host the Big Ten softball tournament, after COVID-19 canceled their plans in 2020. Finally, the Illini are welcoming the top 12 teams from the league to Urbana for the four-day, single-elimination event.
Illinois Associate Director of Event Management Katie Taylor expressed her satisfaction that they could build on the foundation laid in 2020, bringing great events and good weather for the tournament. Eichelberger Field, where the games will be held, has been spruced up with new Big Ten flags, signage, and decorations, including an oversized bracket.
The winning team will earn the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Excitement is palpable, with Illinois playing as the 12th and final seed in the tournament, following a disappointing conference record this season.
To qualify for the NCAA tournament this year, the Illini must win four games in four days and the tournament title. “We’re 0-0, anything is possible,” said Illinois head coach Tyra Perry. “It’s four games. You can go out, do your best, leave it all on the line and good things can happen.”
Illinois senior infielder Avrey Steiner emphasized the importance of taking the tournament pitch by pitch, focusing on winning the inning and celebrating the little things. Illinois senior infielder Kailee Powell expressed excitement at hosting and winning the conference tournament, something she has dreamed of since freshman year.
Illinois will start their journey in the tournament on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. against No. 5 Wisconsin, who took two out of three games against the Illini in Madison earlier this season. The sun is shining, and the field looks beautiful, giving the Illini hope as they prepare for the games ahead.