The Alcovy softball team achieved one of its goals Friday night, winning the Region 2-AAAAAA championship.
Today, the Tigers will work toward accomplishing another goal by winning in the first round of the state playoffs.
Alcovy hosts Westlake in a best-of-three series starting at 4:30 p.m. today in a one-seed versus four-seed matchup.
If the Tigers win in this round and the next, slated for Oct. 17, they will reach Columbus and the state finals for the first time in school history Oct. 25-27. But don't tell that to Alcovy's coaches or players, who see only one task in front of them - beating Westlake.
"I think the girls are excited to be in the state playoffs but they are trying to take it one game at a time and try to move on to the next round and go from there," Alcovy coach Monica Marks said. "The goal is to make it to Columbus and compete for a championship but you can't win a championship without winning any of the games."
In order to win their first set of games, the Tigers (25-4-1) will need to continue to play the way they had finishing up the Region 2-AAAAAA tournament, with all three phases of the game going well.
Alcovy defeated Rockdale 12-4 in its first region tournament game Wednesday, Luella 6-1 in the semifinals on Thursday and Rockdale again in the championship 4-0 on Friday.
"I think they got better as the week went on," Marks said. "I think we played consistent defense, scored runs and our pitching was good. We kind of played well in all facets."
Leading the way was a solid one-two combination of senior Chelsea Murphy and freshman Kalia Johnson in the pitching circle. The two will both be called on today as Murphy will start in the series opener, followed by Johnson in game two.
At stake is not only a chance to move on to the second round, but also to reach a place where Alcovy softball has never been. The Tigers have made the state playoffs before but have never advanced toward Columbus. To reach an unfamiliar level, Alcovy will have to defeat an unfamiliar foe.
"They're new to us, but what I like to focus on is what we can do," Marks said. "And if we play well we should be successful.
"We're a talented team, and it's just about coming in ready to play every game and being mentally ready and playing well."
The Tigers have allowed just 1.5 runs per game, while scoring 7.3 a contest matching favorably for them against Westlake. The Lions (9-13), of Region 3-AAAAAA have allowed more runs per game (9.4) than they have scored (8.2), finishing ahead of Tri-Cities (1-4) and winless Langston Hughes in region play.
"I think the girls know what they have to do to be ready to play," Marks said. "When you make it this far, everything is going to be a challenge."
This is Alcovy's first state playoff appearance since 2009 when it lost to Thomas County Central 7-1, before winning 5-4 and then falling 10-1 to be eliminated in the first round. That year, Alcovy was the second, after falling to Ola in the region championship, and hosted a third seed.
Today. the Tigers begin the playoffs with a top draw, hoping to set and reach new goals.