That's the mindset of the Carrollton High School softball team as it travels to face top-ranked Northwest Whitfield in the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs today with a 5 p.m. doubleheader. After reaching the second round in Class AAA last season, the goal now is to make it to Columbus competing in Class AAAA.
"We were able to experience the sweet 16 last year and we know how good that tastes. We hope to maybe move on to the elite eight. We talked to the kids at the end of practice [Tuesday], this opportunity doesn't come along every year. It's something special. I know we're going to face the No. 1 team in the state, but at the same time we have an opportunity to go and play in a series, hopefully do well and do something Carrollton softball hasn't done before," Carrollton coach Lisa Phillips said.
The No. 6 Lady Trojans (27-7) have played well all season long, but a slip in the Region 5-AAAA Tournament forced the regular-season region champions into the third seed and a pair of road trips to try for a spot in Columbus.
Last week, Carrollton knocked off Walnut Grove — the No. 4 team in the state — giving it some confidence going into today.
"We talked about that. We've already been able to take on that top-10 program and win on the road. That gives you a lot of confidence," Phillips said.
They face a Lady Bruins (29-3) squad that has Columbus experience from last season. NW Whitfield is in its fifth straight season of at least 20 wins, and had 19 in 2007. The most powerful weapon in NW Whitfield's arsenal is pitcher Emily Boyd. After winning 29 games last season, the senior committed to play at Ole Miss next season. The Lady Bruins also returned catcher Bayli Cruse and Mykeah Johnson.
"[Boyd] throws hard, in, away, up, down. She's just going to be very formidable on the mound. We just have to go up there with a good approach and hopefully we can put the ball in play, make them make mistakes and take advantage of those," Phillips said.
The Lady Trojans have played all season with just two seniors in Randi Phillips and Jessie Pruett. But now in the playoffs they will look to even more youth, as Pruett has been lost for the season.
"We played a lot of younger kids and a lot of younger kids have stepped up in their roles. Obviously, we have Randi, but unfortunately we lost Jessie. She had a torn ACL diagnosed this week. We didn't have her last week in that series. We played [freshman] Maime Crawford at shortstop and then [sophomore] Katie Jones did some good things. We feel like we have a team to go up there. Obviously, we would like to have Jess and everything she brings, but we're still confident in what we have to get the job done," Lisa Phillips said.