. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

(Brienne Green – Daily Press)

The achievement of any goal must be done by degrees, little steps that, when combined, yield a big result.

The Lady Bulldog soccer program made a significant lunge forward in 2016 when, for the first time in a decade, they were seeded into the Class 5A State Tournament. Unfortunately, as fate often has it for a competitive district like 4-AAAAA, they found themselves making the familiar jaunt north to take on Roswell High, coming up a goal short of advancement, 1-0.

Getting past the district opponents that have cost them so much over the past several seasons is a major goal of the Artesia girls in 2017, and it’s one coach Tim Trentham feels is attainable.

But first thing’s first, and Trentham doesn’t want his squad looking past it. The start of a new year and the Goddard Invitational Tournament loom, and every games in its time is the Lady ‘Dogs’ most important this year.

“I want to win this tournament,” Trentham said Thursday. “We’ve gotten third place a couple of times, but I think we’re on the cusp of doing some really strong things. We’re going to have to get through district opponents to do it. If we win our first game against Portales, we’ve got to play Roswell, and then if we win that, there’s a chance we run into Goddard on the other side.

“Winning this tournament is a big-time short-term goal, but even shorter than that is just that first game against Portales. We want to get that first win and get it out of the way.”

The Lady Bulldogs are fairly low on numbers again this year – 30 total athletes comprise the program – but of those, seven starters from 2016 will be back on the pitch.

The team also boasts a solid core or upperclassmen intermingled with talented youth.

“Our junior class is actually the smallest group we have on varsity, but our senior class has nine, and all of them are pretty solid,” Trentham said. “Of those nine, five are starters, so that’s a real good group with some real good talent, too.

“We’ve got another eighth-grader this year and four ninth-graders we’ve pulled up along with a few sophomores who are starters, so we have some youth in there, but we’re pleased with what we have, and we’re looking to do good things. We’ll see where we stand this weekend.”

The Artesia girls will be looking to build on a preseason’s worth of tough workouts designed to give them an edge physically.

“We looked pretty good over the summer,” said Trentham. “A lot of the summer was spent just getting back in shape. There were some days we looked tired, but we were working them a lot harder than we have in the past, because I want to be in really, really good shape by the time we get to district.

“In the past, we’d get in close games but then we’d get tired. Part of that was our depth, too, because we couldn’t rely on our bench players, but this year, I’ve got some really good quality subs, and that’ll help us be able to get some fresh legs on the field when we need them.”

Following this weekend’s outing – which finds the Lady ‘Dogs taking on Portales at 3 p.m. today, followed by a 9 a.m. or 11 a.m. game Saturday, depending on whether they lose or win, and a third game TBD that afternoon – Artesia will host Class 6A Hobbs in their home opener at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Their regular-season schedule is solid overall, with squads like Capital, Clovis, Alamogordo, Chaparral, Deming, Santa Teresa and Carlsbad all on the docket.

The gamut should be more than sufficient to prepare them for the “second season” of D4 play, which Trentham feels could be more up for grabs than usual this year.

“I think the district’s going to get tighter,” said the coach. “Goddard lost a lot. They’ve been dominating for quite a while just because they had that traveling team that had been together for so long, but we were still in tight games with them.

“Roswell’s lost a little bit but not any more than we’ve lost, so those will be close games. I think district is really anybody’s this year. Roswell is going to make a big push for it, but I think we can get there and win if we can stay focused.”

The first test of that comes today.

“We ultimately just want to keep building and getting stronger,” Trentham said. “This year, we’re really pushing the girls to be accountable for each other. We’ve been trying to get them to bond as a team and just work hard every day for each other, and we’re getting there.

“We’re, as always, excited for the new season and ready to get going.”