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Artesia finishes its season with mark of 13-9

(Brienne Green - Daily Press)

(Brienne Green – Daily Press)

If one had to choose a single hallmark to define the 2015 Artesia High School volleyball team, it would be that they never gave up.

When the chips were down, the Bulldog netters would fight all the harder. Such was the case Thursday in the first round of bracket play at the Class 5A State Tournament in Rio Rancho.

After jumping out to a quick lead over the Sundevils of No. 12 Espanola Valley with a 25-18 win in Game One, the ‘Dogs dropped the next two bouts, 15-25 and 18-25.

That put EV one win away from sealing the deal. But Artesia wasn’t about to go down that easily.

In a marathon Game Four, the Bulldogs waged a seesaw battle against the Devils, going into extra points before pulling out the 28-26 win to tie the match.

Unfortunately, missteps of any kind add up quickly in the first-to-15 Game Five, and Espanola was able to gain the upper hand and hold it en route to a 15-10 win that ended the ‘Dogs’ season.

“The girls really came out fired up, and I was proud of how they played,” head coach Alan Williams said today. “They did the best they could. Everybody had a good game.

“Espanola Valley played some great defense and kept a lot of our attacks off the ground. They were just able to edge us out little by little.”

Artesia had gotten their state tourney run off to a shaky start Thursday morning with two-game losses to both of their pool play opponents, No. 3 Centennial and No. 6 Piedra Vista.

“We kind of came out sluggish in pool play as we tend to do, and we didn’t play our best there,” said Williams. “But I think that helped motivate us to be our best in the match that evening.”

The Bulldogs put their best foot forward in what turned out to be a favorable first-round pairing against the bracket’s last-place seed. But the Sundevils could do no wrong, pulling off improbable plays all over the court.

“It was kind of the story of our season,” Williams said. “We’ve been in a lot of five-game matches this year where we just barely came up short at the end.

“We had our opportunities, but the girls played hard, and I’m really proud of them.”

Espanola Valley advanced to face No. 1 Roswell in a quarterfinal match this morning, falling in three straight, 12-25, 21-25 and 21-25. The Coyotes will square off against Centennial at 4:45 p.m. today in the semifinal round. The second semifinal will pit St. Pius – who defeated Goddard in three straight this morning – against Los Lunas.

Artesia finishes its 2015 campaign with a solid mark of 13-9.

“It was a fantastic season,” said Williams. “We had a lot of good girls, had a lot of fun, and when you look back from beginning to end, there’s a tremendous amount of individual improvement and team improvement. So I think there’s a lot of success in that.”

The Bulldogs will say goodbye this year to five seniors who have contributed much to the program in Jenna Butcher, Justena Galindo, Kayla Ledezma, Erica Reyes and Kathrine Baggerly.

“Our seniors had a great game, and they certainly did a good job of being leaders for us this year,” Williams said. “They were positive on the court, did everything they could, and I think toward the end of the season, they were playing the best they have in their years of high school volleyball.

“We had a good group of seniors, and we’re proud of them.”