The squad left early Thursday afternoon to prepare for Friday’s 2 p.m. match against Colorado State.

The Huskies, who earned national recognition when they placed seventh in last year’s NCAA National Softball Championship, will enter the tourney with a 3-1 record, which they picked up in last weekend’s College of St. Francis Tournament.

NIU coach Dee Abrahamson said she thinks this 16-team double-elimination tournament will provide more of a challenge to the Huskies than the St. Francis tournament did.

“This is another step up for us,” Abrahamson said. “Last weekend, we went into a tournament knowing we were guaranteeed four games, but now we know we have to win to keep playing. The competition is also a step up.”

The Huskies will look to two-time All-America Jill Justin, who leads the squad with a .636 batting average, for consistency and leadership with the sticks.

Also contesting NIU throughout the three-day tournament will be the University of Toledo, Illinois State, University of Akron, University of Missouri, Florida State and Illinois State.