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The Bulldog volleyball team poses for a photo after winning the consolation bracket Saturday at the Sweet 16 in Las Cruces. (Photo Courtesy Alan Williams)

One point was all that prevented the Bulldog volleyball team from testing themselves against the best Saturday at the Jane Leupold Sweet 16 in Las Cruces.

But while that pool play point kept the Artesia High School netters out of the championship bracket, they made their trek west count, picking up a pair of wins over Gadsden and El Paso Pebble Hills that gave them a consolation title and an overall early-season record of 3-0.

“We were a little disappointed,” head coach Alan Williams said Saturday. “I felt like we were better than the bottom half of the tournament, but we played well. Overall on the weekend, we played 14 sets and won 11 of them, so you can’t ask for much more than that.”

The ‘Dogs opened pool play Friday morning with a 21-25, 25-22 split with El Paso Jefferson. Both went on to fall to Centennial 0-2 and defeat Chaparral 2-0, which tied them for the pool’s second seed. That left it to the point differential, and the Lady Silver Foxes took that by one.

In evening pool play, Artesia swept all three of their opponents – Alamogordo, Silver and Ruidoso – 2-0, placing them in a bracket-opening game Saturday against Gadsden.

The Bulldogs were dominant against the Panthers, winning in three – 25-13, 25-15, 25-18 – to advance to the bracket’s championship game. There, they would have little more trouble out of the Lady Spartans of Pebble Hills, completing their tournament run with another 3-0 win (25-16, 25-18, 25-20).

Bailey Pearce, left, and Malori McSpadden pose with their trophies after being named to the Sweet 16 All-Tournament Team Saturday in Las Cruces. (Photo Courtesy Alan Williams)

“We got two quality wins against two quality teams, and we played well – as well as I’ve had a team play this time of year,” said Williams. “I think that’s due to the amount of seniors we have on the team. We have a lot of experience returning from last year, and it shows.”

The Bulldogs were led offensively on the weekend by seniors Bailey Pearce and Stacia Martinez, who logged 23 and 13 kills respectively over the course of their two bracket matches. Alexa Riggs had 18 digs defensively, Kyrah Gonzales and Elliot Harrison posted 33 and 29 assists respectively, and Riggs added five aces from service.

Pearce and fellow transfer Malori McSpadden earned All-Tournament Team honors for their performances.

“It’s good to get on the road and play in a tournament like this that showed us a lot of good competition,” said Williams. “This was our first tournament of the year, and I think it was a success.”

The Bulldogs will now prepare for their 2017 home opener Tuesday against Class 6A Hobbs at 7 p.m. at Bulldog Pit. The Eagles are currently 0-4 on the year, having been swept in their opening matches by Roswell High, Clovis, Lovington and Goddard.

Tuesday will also be Hawaiian Night at Bulldog Pit, and fans are encouraged to dress or accessorize accordingly.

“It’s still early in the season, so we’re still working on a few things,” said Williams. “We’ll need to adjust the things that we learned from this tournament, and I think we need to have a little more variety in our attack. So we’re going to try to do a few things different Monday, and then we’ll see Tuesday how that goes.”