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The Bulldog volleyball team displays its hardware. (Courtesy Photo)

The Bulldog volleyball team displays its hardware. (Courtesy Photo)

Las Cruces’ Sweet 16 Tournament is always a who’s who of some of the top volleyball talent in the state. As such, it tends to provide the Bulldog netters with the trial by fire they’re seeking in the opening weeks of the season.

Despite having just a single match under their belts, however, the ‘Dogs weren’t setting the bar low.

“We had two goals going into it,” head coach Alan Williams said Saturday. “The most important, of course, was to get better, but the other was to come out with two wins. We

Stacia Martinez, left, and Alexa Riggs pose with their trophies after being named to the All-Tournament Team. (Courtesy Photo)

Stacia Martinez, left, and Alexa Riggs pose with their trophies after being named to the All-Tournament Team. (Courtesy Photo)

were able to accomplish both of those goals, so it was a pretty good weekend for us.”

The Artesia girls struggled in the first round of pool play Friday in Cruces, taking just one win out of their trio of two-set matches. The Bulldogs went 18-25, 25-19 with El Paso Jefferson but were swept by both Las Cruces High (21-25, 24-26) and Santa Teresa (12-25, 19-25).

They fared better in the afternoon’s second pool play round, however, topping Mayfield (25-12, 27-26) and Deming (25-12, 25-13) and splitting with Loretto Academy of El Paso (21-25, 25-19).

That placed them in the “Bronze Bracket” Saturday, where they swept Class 6A Alamogordo in their opener, 25-18, 27-25, 25-19. The victory earned them a rematch with Cruces High in the final, and Artesia was able to turn the tables, 3-1 (25-15, 20-25, 25-23, 25-22).

“The girls played really hard,” Williams said. “We had some really good defense Saturday. We’re usually the shortest team in the tournament, so we don’t tend to do a lot of blocking, but we had one of the better blocking games we’ve had in quite a while against Las Cruces.

“Offensively, we’re continuing to get better. We had some good hits and served some aces against Las Cruces that really helped us out.”

Williams said that further helping the Bulldogs overcome their slow start to take the consolation bracket was a healthy crowd of Artesians.

“We had a bigger crowd in Las Cruces than Las Cruces did,” said the coach. “So the Bulldogs without the W showed up, and it was a good weekend for us. 3-0 is a good start.”

The ‘Dogs will have another challenge Tuesday when they travel to Hobbs to take on the 6A Eagles at 7 p.m.

“They’re going to be a tough test for us,” Williams said. “They’ve really improved a lot, and we’re kind of short right now with one of our players injured, but we’re just going to have to go over there and play a good, solid game.”