AMHERST, Mass. (WWLP) – For the first time since 1998, The UMass Minutewomen’s basketball team will be heading to the NCAA tournament.

The field expands to 68 teams, with a First Four set of games later this week and one of those teams is the UMass Minutewomen.

“It’s a great day for our program and great for our community and I’m super excited that we can bring home this championship,” said head coach, Tory Verdi.

The Champions center welcomed back home their champions Sunday evening. This year marks the first women’s selection Sunday, and the women’s tournament has now been officially branded as March Madness.

A phrase that wasn’t allowed to be used for this tournament until now. 22News spoke to the team’s head coach before the selection viewing party.

“It’s a celebration our players deserve this the excitement within our program the athletic department and the community is unreal” said Verdi.

This is a historic day for only for the Minutewomen, but women across the country participating in the NCAA. The bracket of this tournament has expanded to 68 teams and the NCAA has changed the conditions and structure of the events to ensure it’s equal for both the men’s and women’s teams.

22News spoke to fans in downtown Amherst to find out how the community felt about this historic accomplishment.

Bobby Scott the general manager at Antonio’s Pizzeria said “We even had a little sign up posted for the first few days after they win the last game last weekend to give them a little bit of support you know it’s sending them some love as they go down there.”

Scott is a UMass alum and a big supporter of UMass Amherst sports, especially the women’s basketball team. “Women’s teams are making it into the championship and they are really showing how good they actually are and I love it I’m rooting for them,” continued Scott.

Many are excited to see the women take on the tournament, and show their support after an incredible season!