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2023 Lady Dog Soccer Preview

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The Lady Bulldog soccer team learned a valuable lesson last season.

It’s a lesson no coach can teach, though they consistently try. Hearing that you’re capable of something and proving it to yourself, however, are simply two vastly different things.

The Artesia girls began their 2022 season low on numbers and equally low on experience. It was to be a rebuilding year. Success was to be striven for, but it wasn’t necessarily expected.

With a record of 5-9 heading into District 4-AAAA play, the Lady ‘Dogs had done well against same-class opponents while struggling with their slate of Class 5A foes and suffering another setback in the form of a pair of losses to Ruidoso. As head coach Tim Trentham told them, their destiny as it pertained to the postseason was in their own hands.

They took that message to heart.

Artesia kicked off their D4 campaign with a 7-0 trouncing of Portales. They came up short of favorite Goddard, but just barely, falling 2-1. They pulled out an overtime thriller against Lovington, 3-2.

Another win over Portales as the second round began was followed by a tougher loss to the Lady Rockets. But following smoother sailing past Lovington, 2-0, the Lady Bulldogs found themselves in a position they’d likely not have believed possible at the start of the year: district runners-up.

From there, it was on to the state playoffs, but unfortunately, Artesia ran into a familiar foe in the first round: Goddard. They put up a fight but came up short, 2-0. Still, the proof was in the pudding: The little team that could had believed themselves right into the state tournament.

“I think seeing that last year was a tough year but we still made the playoffs as a young, inexperienced team was great for our confidence,” Trentham said Tuesday. “Now we can say, let’s build on that. Let’s grow on that. But this time, let’s try to start off strong, too, and build that confidence moving forward.”

Off the bat, the Lady Bulldogs are in a better place than they were at this time last year. Around 33 athletes are out, 15 of which Trentham expects to be solidly varsity and six of whom will likely compete as floaters between the varsity and JV.

As things stand in terms of returning players, the offense is in the lead.

“We’re still really useful at the top,” Trentham said. “We’ve got a lot of freshmen that will probably be starting in positions, a few upperclassmen up top, and so it’s kind of a mix but is a solid one. Our defense, though, is a work in progress. We still haven’t figured out how we want it to look, what our chemistry is, and who can handle the pressure.”

The Lady ‘Dogs graduated a trio of defenders in May that included two central defenders. The team’s aim in its first few outings, therefore, will be to use its offensive experience to give the defense time to find its footing.

“If we can just put pressure on people and maintain possession offensively and then let our defense have a chance to just collect on anything that’s counter, I think we’ll be alright for the start of the season,” said the coach. “We’ll have to develop as we go along as far as shifting and keeping our lines tight with our midfielders, condensing down spaces, and things like that. that still need fixing.”

At the moment, youth is still being served for Artesia, with sophomore athletes and younger comprising the majority of the roster.

“We have a good core group of juniors, though, with some good returning sophomores,” Trentham said. “My younger freshmen that played last year as eighth-graders also give us some good experience. Toward the end of the season, we were starting two eighth-graders and had another playing good minutes.”

The Lady ‘Dogs will be the first of the non-football fall sports squads to open its 2023 campaign, travelling to Silver City Saturday for a 10:30 a.m. game against Deming and a 12:30 p.m. bout with host Silver.

From there, they’ll host Hobbs Aug. 22 at the Mack Chase Athletic Complex before heading to Roswell Aug. 25-26 for the Alien City Invitational.

“Our short-term goal is to get through that Roswell tournament with a pretty good idea of who we are as a team,” said Trentham. “I think playing six games within the course of seven days is just iron sharpening iron. We’ll basically be getting a good idea of who has the best chemistry, where we play well together in certain positions, and how we can have our defense set early on so we’re not trying to figure that out over the course of the season like we did last year.

“Basically, we just want to take care of the matches we should and to be in the matches that are going to be tougher for us.”

As for the long term, District 4-AAAA play is again the focus; another solid performance there spells a return trip to the postseason.

“When we get to district, we really want to be one of the teams that looks the best,” said the coach. “We know Goddard was pretty young, too, and was a pretty good team, but we just want to be ready to be at that competitive level with them.

“Portales is going to be down this year, I think, but you also never know what you’re going to get with Lovington. I expect them to be better this year, too. But we want to be the team to beat this year out of the four teams, and then we also want to get there healthy.”

By the end of it all, Trentham wants to see his squad believing, once again, that they have what it takes to compete on the highest stage.

“After 40 games together, these girls should be a pretty stout 4A team and should always have high aspirations to be oustanding.”

Brienne Green
Daily Press Editor

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