“It’s definitely something I’m really proud of the girls for,” head coach Rob Austin said. “They’ve really come a long ways from day one. It just shows a lot about their character and how hard they’ve worked. It’s definitely a great way to start the program: year one of making it to the playoffs. You really can’t ask for much more. I thought we had a pretty good opportunity of actually winning the area. We weren’t able to make that happen, which is fine. If you had asked me where I thought we’d be at the beginning of the season, I wouldn’t have guessed here. It’s really been a joy so far.”
The team will travel to Jacksonville to take on a fierce opponent in the Jacksonville Golden Eagles Saturday. According to the Alabama High School Athletics Association, Jacksonville finished the regular season with an overall record of 14-2-1.
“They’re a good team,” Austin said. “They’ve got a lot of players on the team that have a lot of experience and a lot of abilities. Do I think we can beat them? Yes. I think we can beat every team we play. It’s just a matter of: can we get all the girls on the same page and get them out there giving everything they’ve got? I hope we can have a good game. I’m proud of everything they’ve done so far. They can’t do anything to let me down. I’m just enjoying the rest of the season and hopefully we can extend it a little bit further.”
Regardless of the outcome of Saturday’s game, Austin has seen tremendous improvement from his team.
“We had tryouts in November,” Austin said. “I had no idea what to expect. Four or five of them are cheerleaders, some of them never played any sports; it was just kind of a smorgasbord, a variety of different girls on the team. It was kind of a mess at the beginning. I remember after tryouts I was kind of like, ‘Man, we’ve got a long ways to go.’ But when they came out for the start of the season, they’ve just really been pretty committed and dedicated to the cause. They just pick up so quickly. They’re like sponges. You can tell half the problem is they’ve just never been coached, so they don’t know some of the basics. You can see it in certain practices. Sometimes I’ll show them something and you’ll see it click. From then on, you can see them trying to work on that. So, it’s pretty exciting.”
Lincoln senior forward and the team’s leading scorer Leia Brown has also seen improvement in her teammates.
“Every day has gotten better since the first day,” Brown said. “We came out the first day and the balls were going everywhere with people trying to dribble. Now, everybody can dribble in a straight line and the ball doesn’t go anywhere. We’ve learned how to pass the ball around. More than just one or two people are starting to score. We have about five or six people who have scored at least one goal this season and a couple have scored multiple goals. It’s really exciting to see the girls who have never played before just take it on and be able to grow that much in just a few weeks.”
Lincoln clinched a spot in the playoffs in a 3-2 sudden death victory over Sacred Heart Catholic on April 15.
Freshman Kaitlynn Taylor, now the team’s second leading scorer, scored the game-winning goal in the playoff-clinching win.
“When we played Sacred Heart, we had tied all the way until the end and we had to go into overtime,” Taylor said. “It went into the sudden death round. That’s when the first goal wins. It was just out of nowhere, I just came up and I shot it. That’s the game that got us into the playoffs. I was really excited about that.”
Brown said making the playoffs has the team excited.
“That night that’s all everybody was able to talk about,” Brown said. “We went out to eat as a team and everybody was so excited. We’ve had games since then, but it seems like none of them compared to the game we’re about to play Saturday.”
Overall, Taylor was most proud of the team for their 3-1 win over Oxford.
“Oxford beat us the first time,” Taylor said. “We went and played on their field and we beat them. We came back and everybody was asking us, ‘You beat Oxford? What?’ They were so shocked and it was just a good feeling to know with Oxford being such a good team and we beat them.”
Austin also ranked the Oxford among the best of the season.
“In that game, I felt like they really spread the ball around, used up the whole field, were passing the ball and communicating and really just starting to look like they were growing into a soccer team,” he said.
Brown said the team is aware of the challenge they face in an opponent like Jacksonville, but has seen determination from her teammates this week in practice.
“We feel confident; we know we have a long road ahead of us in order to be able to beat a team that’s been playing together that long,” Brown said. “It’s only our first year, but all of us really care about it. Nobody is ready for the season to end yet, so we’re trying really hard at practice. The past two games have been like a practice for the game Saturday.”
Lincoln travels to Jacksonville Saturday with kickoff set for 5:30 p.m.