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Zailor Lopez attempts a shot on goal during the first half Tuesday at The Mack. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

In the face of Lovington’s formation of choice Tuesday at the Mack Chase Athletic Complex, it took the Lady Bulldog offense a bit longer than in the teams’ last meeting to get going.

But when they finally did, they made it count, scoring three goals in the final eight minutes of play en route to a 6-0 blanking of the Lady Wildcats.

“Lovington’s strategy last night was to pretty much put all their good players back on defense,” head coach Tim Trentham said today. “They played five flat across the back, and it’s very difficult to get any kind of ball played through and difficult to get on any breaks.

“If we did get a break, one of their faster girls was usually back there with us, so it was kind of live and die by the counter. And when you can only counter with two or three people, it really doesn’t work too well.”

Artesia freshman Sadi Butler was able to get behind the defense early in the contest, going one-on-one with the Lovington keeper at the 34:50 mark. Her initial touch was blocked by the goalie, but after the ball bounced free, Butler was able to recollect it and put it into the net to give Artesia a 1-0 lead.

Just over one minute later, senior Elisa Cardenas followed suit, firing one in from the top of the box to make it 2-0.

That’s where the score would remain at the half, as Lovington limited the Lady ‘Dogs to just two more shots on goal in the half while managing just a pair of their own.

The first 20 minutes of the second half were much the same, but once fatigue began to set in for the ‘Cats, Artesia was there to take advantage.

Butler posted her second goal with 16:56 to go in the game and junior Jannell Soto logged her first at 7:52. From there, it was a feeding frenzy, as Cardenas and Soto rounded out two-goal games of their own with shots at the 4:10 and 3:09 marks respectively.

Elisa Cardenas winds up for a shot during the Lady ‘Dogs’ Oct. 14 meeting with Roswell High. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

“It was good that Jannell got those goals,” said Trentham. “She’s had a few here and there but never had a multi-goal game, so it’ll be good for her confidence, and both of her goals were fantastic finishes. She was in the right place at the right time, finishing on the backside like we needed somebody to be doing.”

With Tuesday’s win, the Lady Bulldogs close out their 2017 regular and district seasons with respective records of 15-5 and 5-1, their lone loss coming Oct. 14 against Roswell High, 1-0.

Despite having topped the Lady Coyotes by an identical score Oct. 3 on the road, the tie-breaker will come down to goal differential, meaning Artesia needs Goddard to pull off a tie or a win when they take on Roswell Thursday.

Regardless, Trentham feels confident the Bulldogs and Coyotes will once again be meeting each other in the first round of the Class 5A State Tournament as the eight-nine matchup.
They’ll learn for sure Sunday when the seeding and selection committee makes its decision.

“It’s been a fantastic season for us,” said Trentham. “We’ve had a lot of huge firsts, and to have the record we have is definitely a direct reflection of the quality of players we have up and down our lineup. We have fantastic senior leadership and some really quality play from some of our underclassmen that have stepped up, so we continue to have that great trend of our youth being successful.

“Now that we’re getting quality players at every grade level, it just builds a better team and gives us better continuation from season to season. I think our program’s finally reached that level now where it can be the next group up instead of freaking out when we lose all our seniors. We can trust in what’s coming behind, and I’m very happy with what this group of girls has been able to accomplish this year.”