There were days when taking on Class 5A Hobbs meant a 10-0 mercy-rule loss more often than not for the Lady Bulldog soccer team.
Those days are gone.
The Artesia girls came out strong in the first half Tuesday of their home opener at the Mack Chase Athletic Complex, hanging a pair of goals on the Lady Eagles in the opening 40 minutes, then using solid defense to preserve their advantage in the second half en route to a 2-1 win.
“We had a really good first half, and that made the difference,” head coach Tim Trentham said following the game. “That first goal put Hobbs on their heels, and that second goal really shell shocked them. I thought we did well with kind of taking them out of their element and just rising up to play to a competitive level.
“Hobbs is a good squad. They’ve got speed, ball control and really good tactics, but they just weren’t expecting us tonight, I don’t think. And that’s how you beat teams like that: hit them with a punch right away, and then they don’t know how to react.”
The Lady ‘Dogs’ initial punch came courtesy of eighth-grader Marlyn Corza in the eighth minute of the first half. After a free kick bounced off the Lady Eagle keeper and into the box, Corza was there for the rebound, firing the ball into the net to give Artesia a quick 1-0 lead.
From there, the Lady Bulldogs took control of the possession game, punching their second goal in with 15:54 to go in the half on a shot from outside the box by Maleyna Pando off an assist from Abigail Jowers.
“I thought we did a good job of moving the ball, which is something we can do really well if we’re not playing panicked or rushed,” Trentham said. “We were able to make Hobbs playus a little bit physical, which took them out of their game. With us slowing down the tempo for them, they were forced to give up silly fouls, and that was giving us turnovers and possessions.”
The Eagles were afforded extra time to regroup, however, when a lightning delay extended the half to 30 minutes and spent the majority of the second half on the offensive.
“That long break helped them more than it did us,” said Trentham. “It would’ve been better if we’d been able to get right back into the game after a 10-minute half, but that 30 minutes just gave them an opportunity to collect themselves and refocus, and I thought we went out flat in the second half.
“We weren’t anticipating how Hobbs was going to come out even though we talked about it during halftime. We’re still young and a little inexperienced, so we haven’t grasped that concept yet that anything can happen after halftime, and it was our turn to be on our heels.”
It was also goalkeeper Kinsley Rodriguez’s time to shine, as the junior made a number of stellar saves throughout the evening but particularly under pressure in the second half.
“Kinsley did an amazing job,” said Trentham. “She played her heart out in goal. And it was neat because the last time we beat Hobbs, her sister was playing.
“Hobbs just started playing less physical and smarter in the second half, which didn’t give us an opportunity for a lot of possessions. But I thought defensively we did well and shut them down for the most part.”
The Lady Eagles were able to log their lone goal four minutes into the final 40. They’d take five shots on goal to the Lady ‘Dogs’ one from there but were stymied for the remainder of the match.
“When they got that goal early in the second, I think our girls’ mindset was just to not give up another one, so we were playing back a little bit too much and kind of went more into panic mode,” Trentham said. “We weren’t stringing together any passes, there wasn’t much middle presence, and we were just chasing everything and hanging on for dear life.
“But we did hang on, and it was a really good win for us. It puts us at 3-0, which is great to start the season, and it was huge for our confidence. Our bench is really starting to develop, we’ve got some players stepping into some really good spots and getting good quality minutes, and our starters are really starting to develop chemistry.”
The Lady Bulldogs opened their 2023 season Saturday with a pair of wins on the road, shutting out Deming 4-0 and topping host Silver 6-1 in Silver City.
“We had a fantastic weekend,” said Trentham. “Our ball movement was great against Deming, which was really exciting, and we pretty well just dominated both games. It took us a little bit to start scoring, but once we did, we got a lot of confidence and just kept putting things in the back of the net.”
The Artesia girls (3-0) will now prepare to head to Roswell Friday and Saturday for the Alien City Invitational, where they’ll open against Roswell High at 6 p.m. Friday.