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The Lady Bulldog soccer team may not have come away victorious Tuesday against the Cavegirls of Carlsbad on the road, but with a skeleton crew on defense stepping up in a big way, the 4-1 final was by no means a lopsided one.

“It used to be a 10-0 situation every time we’d go to Carlsbad,” head coach Tim Trentham said today. “Now, we get in there and play some tough halves. We stick it out. So we’re moving in the right direction against them.

“They’re a 6A powerhouse. I think they’re ranked No. 3 in the state right now for all classifications, so I’ll take that.”

Due to injuries, the Artesia girls were operating Tuesday without their standard defensive lineup, but the athletes on the field held their own against Carlsbad.

“We had a pretty patchwork defense last night,” said Trentham. “I had only one of my starters from the beginning of the season in the back line, and she was playing out of position. We had a freshman on one side and a senior who’d only played JV up until this year on the other.

“I said at the beginning of the season that we had some depth we could play around with. If it had been any other season, we’d have probably gotten killed. But the girls stepped up and did a pretty good job for not having played together in that look until that game. It’s good to see the ‘next man up’ mentality is really working.”

The Cavegirls took a 3-0 lead in the first half, with one of those goals the result of an unfortunate bounce.

The Lady ‘Dogs battled back in the second half to score on a shot by Zailor Lopez, but Carlsbad was able to add one more insurance goal to round out the final, 4-1.

“Defense has to be the smartest players on the field usually, because they’ve got to see everything and position themselves to match everything the offense is throwing,” said Trentham. “So to do what we did last night was really impressive.

“On offense, we’ve got three scorers in Elisa (Cardenas), Zailor and Sadi (Butler), and they’re not always firing at the same time in every game, but we know that at any given time, one of them can take it over and finish. And that’s good that we’re not relying on one person to do the job. And in the midfield, we got Kiersten Hernandez back yesterday after being out all the way since the opening tournament with a concussion, so with her out there and other girls getting some quality time in, it was a good game for us.”

The Lady Bulldogs (9-4) will now have a well-earned week off before kicking off the second season of District 4-AAAAA Sept. 28 against Goddard on the road, and Trentham says the squad will be taking advantage of the time.

“It looks like we’re going to be able to get healthy and get people back at the right time to make a strong push in district and on into state,” said the coach. “I think we’re in a good place right now. We may not be completely full strength going into district, but with the confidence we have in our bench, I think we’ll be somebody to be reckoned with.

“The hardest thing will be to just stay focused, but it’s a well-deserved break and we’re ready for it. We’re excited.”