Artesia head volleyball coach Alan Williams was feeling a bit seasick on his way home from Roswell Tuesday evening, and it wasn’t anything the bus driver was doing.
“I’ve just been on a roller coaster,” Williams laughed.
After opening their 2023 season with a pair of quick and efficient 3-0 wins over Class 5A Carlsbad and Alamogordo, the Bulldogs’ third bout with a 5A opponent wasn’t nearly as cut and dried.
In hostile confines at Coyote Gymnasium, the girls in orange needed every bit of fight they could muster Tuesday, but they rose to the occasion when it counted, edging the Coyotes in five: 17-25, 25-18, 23-25, 27-25 and 15-13.
“We definitely didn’t play as well as we did Thursday, but what we did well tonight was win points when we had to,” Williams said. “Once we got down 2-1, we had to win the last two games, and that’s what we did. We had some kids really step up tonight and make big plays.”
After evening things out following an opening loss, Game Three saw the ‘Dogs come up an agonizing two points short. But they proceeded to battle their way back into contention in the fourth set, taking Roswell High down in extra points to knot the match, 2-2. They kept that fighting spirit going in the fifth for the two-point win, 15-13.
“We came into this game knowing it was going to be tight,” said Williams. “Roswell’s been getting better each year, and last year, we barely beat them. So we knew it was going to be tough, but really what we needed at this point in the season, though, was to go five games with somebody.
“To have to come back when you’re down, make big plays when you have to have them and all that stuff will just be a tremendous advantage for the future, so I’m glad to have had a game like we did tonight.”
Senior setter Kymber Beltran finished with 39 assists on the night and junior Carmen Harvey with 16 digs and three aces. Outside hitters McKenna Morrison and Kailee Padilla turned in nearly identical stats, with 12 kills and 13 digs to 13 kills and 12 digs, respectively.
“We had several errors, but it’s early in the season, so those kinds of things can happen,” Williams said. “”We’re still learning to get comfortable with what we’re doing and to be more consistent, but again, when we needed big plays, we got them, and that’s what was most important. I’m really proud of the girls.”
With the win, the Bulldogs stay perfect on the season at 3-0 as they prepare to face even more tough competition this weekend at the Jane Leupold Sweet 16 tournament in Las Cruces. They’ll open pool play at 9 a.m. Friday against Mayfield, followed by 11:15 a.m. and noon matches against Cleveland and Silver City.
“Some of the best teams in the state will be there, so it’ll be tough, but it’ll also be a lot of playing, which will help us,” said Williams. “Right now, we’re just looking for consistency and just getting a lot of reps in. You just can’t get that same feel in practice that you get in a game, so we just need to play.”