And a battle it was.
After Lincoln took a 2-1 lead with 22 minutes to play in the game, the shot-fest was on. Pulaski, which just edged Lincoln in shots on goal for the game, 24-23, was dead-on with most of its shots and, after the go-ahead goal was scored, pummeled Lady Pat goalkeeper Brittany Gooch with quick shots.
But Gooch and the Lady Pats prevailed. The senior keeper and the Lincoln "D" held Pulaski out to preserve the win, Lincoln's fourth straight, with Gooch credited with 18 saves.
"This is my hardest game of the season so far," said Gooch. "It was tough, definitely the hardest I've had to play. But we really wanted it. We worked really hard and it paid off in the end."
The Lady Patriot defense used any means possible to deny Pulaski, resorting to knee bumps, rump saves, head butts, back kicks and double-teaming to keep the Lady Maroons out of goal.
"I definitely got worked a lot harder but my defense did an awesome job," said Gooch. "A lot of people say the goalkeeper has the best eyes on the field because they can see everything that's happening. I'm screaming, 'You've got to go there! You've got to go there!' And I know sometimes they get frustrated with me, but they listen really well. I've got a good group of girls in front of me that I trust."
As excited as she was with the win, Gooch says there is a special thrill with being 4-0 on the season.
"It's wonderful that we actually beat Pulaski. But to go 4-0 — it's wonderful," she said. "Our seniors (Gooch, Alexis Gooch, Ashley Smith, Cheyenne Young), we're all so excited since it's our senior year. Our girls are trying as hard as they can and putting everything they can into it and it's paying off."
Lincoln never trailed in the game, with Laura Estridge getting into the right corner of the goal in the 28th minute. However, the Lincoln lead lasted a mere four minutes, with Pulaski's Jordan Richardson heading the ball into goal in the 32nd minute to make it 1-1.
The 1-1 deadlock would carry into the half, with stingy defenses denying another goal the remainder of the period.
The 1-1 tie and Pulaski's tenacious offense had Cole concerned.
"The first half I was nervous because I was afraid that we weren't really ready," Cole said. "We had a large talk at halftime and we talked about that we needed the team that we started the year at and about going to the ball. I think they brought that back and I think that, at the end, they really wanted this."
Lincoln, which has outscored opponents 18-2, collected its 18th goal of the season in the 58th minute of the game off a Morgan Reed shot. Reed scored on the move, getting the dribble penetration before firing the 10-yard shot into the right corner past Pulaski keeper Keelin Cunningham.
"Their (Pulaski's) goalie was good. I told them (Lady Pats), if we were going to get it in the net, it had to be at the opposite side of the net. We couldn't put a shot anywhere near her and that's what we did — twice."
The Reed goal was the final of the game. The remaining 22 minutes was a defensive standoff, with Lincoln waging a war against Pulaski's offensive push.
"Our offense stepped up when we needed to, but I definitely think, at the end, that it was our defense making the big plays," said Cole. "We always tell our defense — allow no shots. They did not back down. We were missing one of our key players (Jessica Upchurch) but her shoes were filled the best that we could and our defense stepped up."
Cole said she couldn't help but single out Gooch for her strength in goal.
"I commend Brittany for her hard work," Cole said. "I said, 'This is the hardest you've worked all season.' And she said, 'Whew, I'm tired.' I was so glad that she was able to step up after not maybe having too much of a practice with other teams."
Winning is Lincoln's goal each and every game, but the Pulaski game held special meaning for the Lady Patriots due to deaths in two team members' families. Upchurch and Alexis Gooch both recently lost grandparents.
"Everybody wanted to win for our two girls who've lost grandparents lately. Jessica (Upchurch) lost her grandmother and Alexis (Gooch) lost her great-grandfather and he's laid out tonight," said Brittany Gooch. "Before the game we prayed for them. We really wanted to support our players and show them that we're there for them. So we thought maybe, if we won the game, that would show it."