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Elisa Cardenas secures the ball in front of a Rocket defender during the first half Tuesday at The Mack. (Brienne Green - Daily Press)

Elisa Cardenas secures the ball in front of a Rocket defender during the first half Tuesday at The Mack. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

The Lady Bulldog soccer team went into Tuesday’s District 4-AAAAA bout against Goddard knowing a shot at a district championship was on the line. And they played like it.

The Artesia girls battled for nearly 92 minutes at the Mack Chase Athletic Complex, coming from behind in the second half to tie the Lady Rockets, 1-1, and force overtime.

The Lady ‘Dogs had chances to end both sudden-death OT sessions early, but heads-up play by the Goddard defense prevented it. Moments into the first, Artesia managed to get behind the Goddard keeper for a shot on the open net, but a Lady Rocket defender managed to step into goal and head the ball away.

The Rockets had their own shot a few minutes later that was blocked by Lady ‘Dog goalie Ashley Garcia, a thorn in Goddard’s side throughout the contest.

Eight seconds into the second OT, Artesia earned a direct free kick, but the attempt was saved. And with 8:13 to go, in the midst of a scrum at their own net, the ball would bounce off a pair of Lady ‘Dog defenders and over the line to end the game, 2-1.

“That was unfortunate,” head coach Tim Trentham said today. “They had a forward there, and we were just trying to clear it out and not let her get it. It wasn’t a miscue or anything; it just rattled off two of our defenders and went in.”

It was a devastating end to a hard-fought contest that had seen the Lady Bulldogs rally in the second half after a Goddard onslaught in the first. The Rockets notched the first goal of the game just over five minutes in and continued to pressure from there, but Garcia and the Artesia D held them at bay to keep the margin at one at the half.

“We were playing a lot of counter, which with their speed on their back line, really wasn’t working for us as well as it has this season,” Trentham said. “Our midfield just wasn’t being very successful for a while. They seemed to be getting every ball out of our defensive third.

“They didn’t really get a lot of great looks even though they had a lot of shots. A lot went off frame, and the ones that were on frame, Ashley Garcia just ate up. She played fantastic – probably her best game of the season, and that was what really held us in the game.”

With 29:21 remaining in the second half, Taylin Lopez tied the game for Artesia, who – sparked by the fresh start – had a few chances to end it in regulation.

With 16:33 on the clock, a hard shot deflected off the Goddard keeper, but no one was there to follow up, and with under two minutes remaining, another solid look was stymied by a diving save from the Rocket goalie.

The loss puts the Lady Bulldogs at 9-9 on the season, 3-2 in district play. And although the defeat clinched the D4 title for Goddard, the Artesia girls still have a chance at the runner-up slot tomorrow against Roswell High on the road.

“If we can get a win in Roswell, we get second place in the district, and I think that would give us a pretty good shot of moving forward into the state playoffs,” Trentham said. “We’re just looking for today to be a recovery day to kind of get our mindset back and collect our emotions, and be ready for tomorrow.

“The girls gave everything they had because they really wanted to win district, but now we have to get them to remember we still have another game that’s important. The season hasn’t been a wash just because we didn’t win district. We still have an opportunity moving forward.”