For the fifth time in school history, the Ashland University women's basketball team will play in the NCAA Division II national championship game.
The team's bus left campus at 5:15 a.m. Wednesday.
"There isn't a sendoff for the team," said Dusty Sloan, the school's sports information director, noting the early departure.
The public is invited, though, to the Ashland campus at 3:30 p.m. Saturday to watch the game for free at Kates Gymnasium. Doors open at 3 p.m.
The No. 1-ranked Eagles (36-0) will play No. 6-ranked Minnesota Duluth (32-3).
The game will be played in Dallas, Texas.
The Ashland University women's basketball team has won two previous national championships in 2013 and 2017.
'This team is just so special'
The championship game was moved this year to the site of the Women's Final Four Site in honor of the NCAA's 50th anniversary celebration of Title IX, according to an NCAA news release.
The venue will host the NCAA Division III championship game at noon Saturday, the Eagles at 3:30 p.m. and then the NCAA Division I championship game at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
The magnitude and emotions of the moment were not lost on Ashland senior forward Annie Roshak, she said in the news release.
"This team is just so special," Roshak said. "To have another week and a half with them is amazing, and I'm so excited. We're one game away from doing what I think a lot of us have dreamed about doing."
'Excited to be able to honor 50 years of Title IX'
The time in Dallas leading up to the game will provide teams plenty of opportunities to enjoy the big stage and soak in the experience, the NCAA news release reads.
Coaches are trying to stress a business-as-usual approach to keep nerves from being much of a factor during this weekend's games.
Coaches and student-athletes from all participating schools recognize the added significance of these championship games because of the ties to the Title IX anniversary.
Ashland coach and former Eagles student-athlete Kari Pickens grew up in a town where women's basketball was appreciated, as her high school team won two state championships. But she's aware that isn't the case everywhere, and said it's important to recognize what Title IX has meant for women's sports.
"We were a team where everyone wanted to come watch us play. The more I talked to other people, I recognized that's not everyone's story, and we still have a long way to go to close that gap," Pickens said. "I'm really excited to be able to honor 50 years of Title IX by playing in a national championship game. Hopefully, our team and our fans can show people that watch that women's basketball is something that's really fun and special."
This article originally appeared on Ashland Times Gazette: Here's where to watch Ashland U NCAA national championship game