Published: 2:13 pm, Fri. Oct. 20th, 2017Updated: 2:12 pm
A hiccup in the second set aside, the Bulldog volleyball team delivered a solid outing overall Thursday against Lovington at Bulldog Pit, besting the Wildcats in four, 25-12, 22-25, 25-10 and 25-12.
Artesia came out firing on all cylinders before a healthy home crowd, taking a commanding lead over the ‘Cats amidst a six-point service by Alexa Riggs.
Riggs’ jump serve netted her an ace, with senior Bailey Pearce pounding home three more points via the kill to help give Artesia a 9-2 advantage.
Lovington was able to inch back within five on a pair of mis-hits, 11-6, but kills from Mattie McCombs and Stacia Martinez in the service of Pearce and two from the line by McCombs put Artesia back up by 10, 17-7.
Kyrah Gonzales came a point away from serving out the game from there, delivering six – fueled by kills from Malori McSpadden and Martinez, and a McSpadden solo block – but a side-out returned the ball to Lovington.
The Wildcats proceeded to stave off the inevitable with a trio of consecutive blocks, but Martinez caught them off guard with a dump to end the game, 25-12.
Lovington took advantage of a string of Artesia errors to go up 4-0 as Game Two began, but kills from Brile Ybarra and Dezaray Boyce helped the Bulldogs knot things up at six-all. Unfortunately, the ‘Dogs’ starting setter, Gonzales, was forced to exit the game at that point with a leg injury suffered when she skidded while attempting to avoid a net violation.
The unexpected shakeup clearly threw Artesia, and Lovington took full advantage.
Kamryn Cunningham delivered five from service midway through for the ‘Cats to put Lovington up 16-9, and although a trio of points apiece by Riggs and Elliot Harrison brought the ‘Dogs back within striking distance, 21-19, they could not get back over the hump, falling 22-25.
“We played really well to start the night, but that second game just kind of threw us off,” head coach Alan Williams said following the match. “To have such a key player like a setter go down, I think that was a little bit difficult for the girls to handle.”
Artesia was able to right the ship in the third set, however, settling back into a rhythm and jumping on the Wildcats early.
Four points from Harrison and McCombs – each with an ace – helped give the Bulldogs an 11-2 advantage, and with Puentes and Boyce delivering solid hits from the outside, Artesia was able to maintain the margin through the halfway point.
Riggs delivered four more to make it 21-6, and Harrison would serve out the game, 25-10, with a Puentes kill and an ace in the final point.
The ‘Cats tried to regain the momentum early in the fourth bout on a four-point run by Cunningham, but Martinez was in the groove, slamming four kills home to keep the Bulldogs even with Lovington until a five-point service by Kersie Beltran put them in the driver’s seat, 13-7.
McSpadden and Harrison ended the Wildcats’ next two offensive opportunities with kills, while in between, Martinez posted four more – including a pair of aces and a resounding one-touch kill by Pearce – to make it 18-8.
McSapdden tacked on an ace of her own and two more points on Pearce hits to send the match into the home stretch, 22-9, and consecutive kills by Pearce ended the evening, 25-12.
“The third and fourth games, we got back on track, and that was really good to see,” said Williams. “I didn’t see anything we particularly did too bad at tonight, so it was just a good overall game for us. Serving, passing… I thought we did everything pretty well.”
The Bulldogs (17-1, 4-0) will now prepare to close out their regular-season district schedule on the road, starting with a 6:30 p.m. bout Tuesday against Goddard at Ground Zero.
“It’s going to be a rough stretch this next week that we have to be ready for,” Williams said. “But it’s that time of year, and I think it’s good that our district has such quality teams, because this is what gets you ready for state.
“It’s time to start looking at peaking and playing our best volleyball. I know the girls are ready, and we really appreciate the crowd that came out tonight.”