It's been a history-making season for the Dawson County High School Lady Tigers.
Last week, the softball team advanced to the Elite Eight of the state Class AAA tournament in Columbus, where it will face Pierce County in the first round at 2:30 p.m. Thursday.
"We've set a lot of history this year and I think we're making a name for ourselves," said senior Joy Lewis, who gave up just three hits in the Oct. 24 win over Cedartown that kept the team's postseason alive.
"We've made so much history this year. We've won region, and we won our first game ever in the Sweet Sixteen. Now we're going to Columbus. Everybody is just so grateful and really excited to be able to do something that no one has been able to do and set higher standards for softball."
It is Dawson County's first trip to the state playoffs since starting a fast-pitch program in 2001, though Coach Jimmy Pruett knew early on his team was special.
"I had an idea that we were going to be good this year," he said. "Of course, you can never predict the success that we've had. Our goal from day one was to go to Columbus, and we've achieved that goal. And now we want to take that a step further and give ourselves the opportunity to win the state championship."
For senior Emily Hunsucker, seeing a team that has grown into her extended family make it to the state playoffs is a dream come true.
"I would do anything for any of those girls," she said. "If you play as a team and as a family, you can do anything that you want.
"It doesn't matter how much talent you have, it's how much heart you have. And I can see us going really far this weekend, if we hit the ball like we know we can, make all the plays that we can and play for one another, not just individually."
Pruett said that heart and commitment to team has paved the way for the Lady Tigers' success.
"I tell most everybody that hasn't seen us play ... we may not be the most talented team still playing, but I challenge anybody with the heart and commitment these girls have," he said. "Heart will take you a long way. Desire will take you a long way. And that's a lot of what these girls have accomplished. They've done it for one another, because they want to succeed. They want to win."
Hunsucker said the team also wants to win for the community and "everyone that has supported us."
"Robinson Elementary had a pep rally for us. It was awesome. It made all of us almost cry," she said. "It was the sweetest thing anyone could ever do for us."
The team was also asked to walk in the annual Moonshine Festival parade on Saturday.
"Everywhere I go, I get told how proud everyone is of us and how much they want us to win and shock everyone that ever said we couldn't do it," she said. "It's a great feeling to us, because we feel like we have support and they actually want us to do well and they actually want us to go far."
The team, which leaves today for Columbus Softball Complex, hopes to see a large contingency of maroon shirts in the stands for the state tournament.
Pruett said fans can expect to see a continuance of what's been going on all season.
"They're going to fight and scratch and claw their way if there is a deficit," he said. "They're not going to give up if we have a lead. They're not going to let up. That's what I expect from them, high energy and a lot of excitement."