Even with a young team this season — no seniors and only two juniors — MZ coach Millie Grimes knew her squad had a chance to do some impressive things.
"We're excited. It's been a long time coming. They've been working hard all season and hopefully it will continue. I think the last few games we started to peak. Hopefully we keep on, even the couple games we lost we played good against some good teams," Grimes said. "They're excited and they're young and I don't know if they realize really what a task they've completed, how big it is. Some of them being their first year in high school, I'm not sure they know this doesn't happen every year for Mt. Zion."
The Lady Eagles (18-12) finished third in the Region 6-A tournament, but that wasn't enough to earn an automatic bid this time around. With the Georgia High School Association splitting the private and public schools into two separate 16-team brackets the only automatic berth came from winning the region tournament.
That meant Mt. Zion had to wait for the final power rankings to come out, the appeals to be sent in and heard before the official and final bracket was released.
"It was interesting, I guess. It was kind of nerve-wracking to have to wait and see. Before you knew if you were one, two, three or four you knew you were going to play. I felt like we were in a good position, but you didn't know until the final draft came out that you were in and where you were," Grimes said.
The MZ coach noted that after the appeals process at least two teams were knocked out of the tournament and her Lady Eagles were bumped up a spot in the bracket.
As the No. 10 seed the Lady Eagles will have to make a long trek to face seventh-seeded Echols County. The Lady Wildcats (15-10) come out of Region 2-A along with the third seeded Telfair County.
"Looking at the team's they've played it looks like their region is pretty strong with Telfair and a couple strong ones," Grimes said. "I think they're going to be solid all the way through and we're just going to have to go and play ball. If we do that I think we'll have a good chance."
The biggest obstacle facing MZ might be the five and a half hour drive to Statenville, just south of Valdosta. After discussing the travel situation with the administration Grimes said the team will travel on Tuesday and spend the night rather than getting off the bus and having to play on Wednesday.
"We're going to have a good practice, hopefully, [Monday] then [Tuesday] we are going to go ahead and leave after school, get down there and hopefully get a good night's rest, then we'll get something to eat and workout before the game. I think we'll do much better than trying to make that six-hour drive, get off the bus and get in game form," Grimes said.
The series will open Wednesday with a doubleheader beginning at 2 p.m. in the best two-out-of-three series. If a third game is necessary it will be played at 1 p.m. on Thursday.
While the Lady Eagles don't have any state playoff experience they have played plenty of games against state playoff teams. MZ has faced Gordon Lee three times this season, as well as facing Trion twice. Both those teams made the public school bracket. On the private side Mt. Pisgah and Darlington made the tournament out of Region 6-A.
Grimes hopes that experience will translate well through the tournament.
"I'm hoping it helps us a lot. I think it should, I think our region year-in and year-out has been one of the toughest. I don't think this year is any different. We've got some strong private schools and some strong public schools," Grimes said. "I hope that's something we can follow through with and make it to the final eight this year."