That appearance was a brief one at the Birmingham CrossPlex.
Sixth-ranked Sand Rock drew defending Class 2A state champion and second-ranked Providence Christian of Dothan in the opening round Wednesday. The task of advancing was already a monumental one, but the Lady Wildcats compounded that by struggling to find their own rhythm.
The result was a three-game sweep by the Lady Eagles, 25-9, 25-7 and 25-20.
Providence Christian (52-2) advanced to Wednesday's Class 2A state semifinals against fourth-ranked Hatton (51-19). Sand Rock's season comes to a close at 35-13.
"I wished we could have gone out giving our best effort," Sand Rock coach Lisa Bates said. "I know these girls haven't been here, but they didn't look like the same team that almost beat (third-ranked) Lexington (at last weekend's Super Regionals in Huntsville).
"We just couldn't get any offense going. We couldn't get our passes where they needed to be. We couldn't get our sets where they needed to be. We weren't hitting it. If you don't have any offense going at this level, you don't last very long at all."
Bates' proof of her statements was in the pudding.
In the first game, Providence Christian built a 14-9 lead then ran away from the Lady Wildcats by going on an 11-0 run.
It was much the same in the second game.
Sand Rock briefly led at 3-2 on a kill by senior outside hitter Amber Ashley, but the Lady Eagles retaliated with a 23-5 run to go up by two games.
The Lady Wildcats had their best effort in game three - again, briefly taking a 5-4 lead on a kill by Ashley - but stopping Providence Christian's momentum for long proved to be an impossible task. The game saw five ties, but ultimately the Lady Eagles pulled away for the victory.
"That third game, it was too late to get any momentum going our way," Bates said. "I wish we could have started out playing that way, then we might could have gotten rolling, but we just didn't."
Ashley led the Lady Wildcats with six kills, three digs and three blocks. Junior middle blocker Madison Smith added eight digs, three blocks and two kills.
Senior outside hitter Kelsey Hayes also had eight digs to go along with a block and an ace. Sophomore setter Ashley Norris finished with eight assists and three digs.
Providence Christian senior outside hitter Elizabeth Dowd led the Lady Eagles with 13 kills, eight digs, two aces and a block. Junior outside hitter Mary Palm contributed four kills, three aces and two digs.
Freshman middle blocker Kristy Odom also posted four kills to go along with a block and a dig. Sophomore setter Emma Cary finished with 25 assists, three digs, a kill, a block and an ace.
Following the match, Bates reflected on the season, which included another Cherokee County championship and an area tournament title. She also praised the efforts of her seniors Ashley, Hayes and right side hitter Hannah Oliver.
"They've given a lot to us," Bates said of her three seniors. "Hannah and Amber have been with me since the seventh grade, and Kelsey has been with me since the eighth grade. They've stuck with the program, and kept working hard. It's going to be weird playing without them next year.
"This team has gotten us going in the right direction. I'm proud they were county champs and area champs. They got us back to the state tournament. Maybe this bunch has gotten things rolling for the next few years."