FARGO - The North Dakota State softball team returns to the NCAA Tournament for the tenth time in the last eleven years Friday night when they face Minnesota in the opening round.

The backbone of the Bison strength comes from an overlooked group of players.

"Even when I was in high school, it was still bigger schools telling me, they like to recruit elsewhere cause they're softball schools there." senior centerfield Katie Shoultz said. NDSU has its share of west coast standouts, but the heart of the roster is made up of upper midwest players. Ten combined from Minnesota and Iowa, who are eager to show they can play with the best in the sport.

"I had something to prove, show them what I can do and same for Katie (Shoultz) and Maddie (Hansen) too." senior shortstop Montana DeCamp said.

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How good are the Midwest players? Shoultz and DeCamp are two of the team leaders in batting average. Shoultz was named the player of the year in the Summit League this season.

"You're told you're from the Midwest, you're just a blue collar player, you are not going to do much, so to work thru that it's bittersweet but it's also so rewarding because some people didn't think you could be where you were." Shoultz said.

Where NDSU is is a familiar spot. And for a majority of NDSU's roster it's an opportunity to prove they belong against the best in the Big Ten.