After going 3-0 to kick off their 2023 season, the Lady Bulldog soccer team went even across the board, 1-1-1, at the Alien City Invitational in Roswell last weekend before coming up short of Class 5A Clovis Thursday on the road.
Two words would succinctly sum up the Artesia girls’ condition by the time the end of Thursday’s 3-0 loss to Clovis rolled around: exhausted and injured. Already tired from their tournament run, physical play against a larger-class opponent began to take its toll.
“By the time we finished the JV game, I had one sub left on the bench, and by the time we finished the varsity game, we had two subs left on the bench,” head coach Tim Trentham said Saturday. “So Clovis was definitely rough.”
The Lady ‘Dogs were able to match up well with the Lady Wildcats through the early goings, but Clovis was able to sneak in their first goal before the half.
“We did really well for the first 20 minutes of the first half,” said Trentham. “We had a lot of possession and were moving the ball really well. Clovis was down and hurting, too, so it was a pretty even, back-and-forth game. They had shooting opportunities, and we had shooting opportunities.”
But Artesia sweeper Marisa Martin was suffering a hamstring strain that left her unable to keep up on a through ball, and via a one-on-one situation with keeper Kinsley Rodriguez in the box, Clovis logged the game’s first goal.
“Then pretty early in the second half, Marisa’s hamstring just went, and we had to scramble to figure things out,” Trentham said. “We were already down two defenders, so now we were down three. Then Kinsley’s had some bruised ribs, and she went down after diving to try to save their second goal, and that caused her too much pain.
“We had to bring in our back-up goalkeeper, so then we were down four defenders, and it just became one of those things.”
The Lady ‘Cats were able to pick up one more goal before game’s end to round out the 3-0 final.
Prior to that outing, the Lady Bulldogs had suffered their first loss of the season Aug. 26 at the Alien City Invite to 5A Organ Mountain after tying with 5A Roswell High. They’d end the tournament on a positive note, however, topping Lovington 4-3 in an early look at a District 4-AAAA opponent.
Versus the Lady Coyotes, Artesia played well throughout, going scoreless through regulation and two sessions of overtime. That put the contest in the official books as a 0-0 tie, but for tournament advancement purposes, a shootout was necessary.
“We only lost 1-0 in PKs, but it was the strangest shootout I’ve ever been a part of,” Trentham said. “We went through all five shooters apiece, and only the first shooter — Roswell’s shooter — made her shot. We’ve definitely never had all five of our shooters miss their PKs before.”
The Lady ‘Dogs also did well to hold the Lady Knights of Organ Mountain to just a single goal in the opening half, but the Knights would come back in the second to send three more into the back of the net for the 4-0 win.
That set up an early meeting between Artesia and Lovington, and after going in even at the break, 1-1, the girls in orange were able to outscore the Lady Wildcats 3-2 in the second half.
“I thought we did pretty well in that one,” said Trentham. “Lovington started out strong like they always do when they play us. They always start out really quick and aggressive, but then they can’t hold that level of play for the duration of the game, so things kind of evened out after a little bit.”
Artesia drew first blood, but Lovington quickly instated the deadlock. From there, it was just a matter of the Lady ‘Dogs working to draw as much water as possible from a near-empty well.
“With tournament games, you can’t really take much from it,” Trentham said. “By that third game, everybody’s exhausted. It was our sixth game in a week, so the girls were just spent, and they’d given everything they had left in the tank by the second half.
“But we were still about to get three goals in. Lovington scored first in the second half, but we just reacted really well, kept our heads, and didn’t make any mistakes that cost us. We got another goal to tie it, then another pretty quickly after that before scoring the third.”
The Lady Bulldogs (4-2-1) will now prepare to head to the tall, cool pines Tuesday for a 5 p.m. game against Class 3A Ruidoso.
“I’ve got five girls out with injuries and two girls who can’t play because they missed school, so we’re going to be thin, and we’re still so thin with experience as it is,” said Trentham. “But at the same time, it’s a chance for our subs to step up and play and get some quality minutes.
“With having to move things around, we can see where different girls might be a good fit and where girls can give us some other subbing opportunities, which just makes us stronger. Then when everybody’s back healthy, everybody’s competitive and we have that trust in our subs.”