This isn't a new experience for the three seniors on the Madison County softball team. But they still plan on making the most of it.
The Mountaineers left Thursday afternoon for Radford, where they will face Holston at 10 a.m. Friday in the Division 1 state semifinals. The team got a send-off at the high school on their way out of town, complete with a fire truck escorting the team bus to the county line.
"To have all of us going to states together for our senior year is really exciting," said catcher Karri Carpenter, "because we've worked really hard, playing all year long with travel and everything."
For Carpenter and many of her teammates, Friday's game will be their second straight state semifinal appearance. The Mountaineers lost 1-0 to eventual champion Bath County last June.
"Not many teams get to say they've gone to states twice, so it's really exciting to go another year. Especially since I'm a senior," said senior first baseman Anna Kelliher. "We've worked hard all season to get to this point, so I think we're as prepared as we can be."
The Mountaineers have been on a roll since an extra inning loss to Clarke County in the Bull Run District championship game. Madison has outscored opponents 23-1 over the last four games, including three straight shutout wins in the Region B tournament, followed by Tuesday's 16-1 win over Chincoteague in the Division 2 quarterfinals.
"It helps when one person hits the ball, and we keep following up one another," said senior shortstop Casey Racer. "And we've had dominant pitching, and we can rely on our defense when other teams hit the ball. We've been working really hard when we come out everyday at practice. And to come this far is a really good accomplishment."
Friday's opponent, Holston, reached states as the runner-up in the Region C tournament. The Cavaliers reached last year's state title game before losing to Bath County.