A little more than a month ago, The Classical Academy girls' soccer players could have looked at their calendars and seen the date for the state title game. Then they could've looked at their record and put an X through that title game.
Instead, they got to work.
And Tuesday night the eighth-ranked Titans (11-6-1) will step onto the lush grass at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in the Class 3A state championship game to take on No. 2 Colorado Academy (15-4).
"We knew that it was going to be a challenge and we wanted to step up to that challenge," senior Bonnie Buzzetta said after Saturday's semifinals victory.
The Titans return to the state title for the second consecutive year and fourth in the past five seasons. They won it all in 2011. This year's trip is the most improbable of all.
On April 12, TCA rallied from a 3-1 deficit before falling in a 5-3 loss to Jefferson Academy, the eventual No. 1 seed in the state tournament. That loss dropped the Titans' record to 3-6. It was also the last time the Titans tasted defeat.
Since then, TCA has rolled off an 8-0-1 record, the only blemish a 2-2 draw against rival St. Mary's. And two of TCA's key losses from early in the season - the defeat to Jefferson Academy and a 2-1 loss to Kent Denver, in which the Titans led - were avenged in the Titans' past two playoff games.
In their nine-game unbeaten streak, the Titans have outscored opponents 43-6. They've outscored their four playoff opponents 16-3.
Next up could be their toughest challenge of the postseason, a team that soundly beat St. Mary's 4-1 in the semis. The Mustangs and Titans didn't meet this season. But last year, the Titans knocked CA out of the semifinals.
"(TCA coach Blake Galvin) does a fantastic job," Colorado Academy coach Sean Stedeford said. "So I anticipate both teams being up and ready for it."
In their past two playoff wins, the Titans have been thoroughly impressive in the second half. That's been the same story for their season too.
"It's been up and down, off and on throughout the season," Galvin said. "This team is so young, I'm not sure they've figured that part out yet either. "