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Kolby Mathews (19) clears the ball under pressure from a Lady Coyote forward during Artesia’s 5A first-round state game Friday in Roswell. (Photo Courtesy Dave Rocha, DavRoc Sports Photography)

It’s inevitable that Murphy’s Law is occasionally going to have its day. Unfortunately for the Lady Bulldogs, it chose the first round of the Class 5A State Tournament.

Two starting forwards injured in the first half of play. A potential tying goal that careened off the far post. And half an hour of competing in darkness.

When it all was over, Artesia had been eliminated, 3-0, by Roswell High Friday, a team they twice defeated this season. And the Lady ‘Dogs’ most successful season in two decades was at an end.

“That game was just one after the other after the other of ‘what’s going to go wrong next,’” head coach Tim Trentham said Saturday. “It was a disappointment to say the least.”

Within the first five minutes of play at the Cielo Grande Soccer Complex in Roswell, senior forward Elisa Cardenas went down with an injured knee. Then came the game’s first goal, an anomaly of a shot.

“It was cleared out, one of Roswell’s players kicked it, and it just went high up in the air,” said Trentham. “It bounced in front of (keeper) Jackie (Govea), and it had a ton of spin on it. It kicked forward real fast, bounced over her head, and just went in.”

Artesia had an excellent chance to tie things up before the break, but their attempt struck the post, and they were unable to follow up. Then, freshman forward Zailor Lopez collided with another player, striking her head, and left the game as a precautionary measure.

Needless to say, by the half, the Lady Bulldogs were reeling. To their credit, however, they came out strong in the final 40 minutes, determined not to go down without a fight.

“The second half, we were doing a lot better,” said Trentham. “We were being outplayed a little bit still, but we had some opportunities. Roswell is just really aggressive. They keep you pinned on your side of the field because there’s just no possession to speak of – they kick it ahead and try to get lucky.

“We had pretty good control of the ball for a while, but they were able to get a second goal on a pretty good look, but then the third was just another error on our part. Our defenders had their forward blocked, and there was miscommunication with Jackie. She hesitated coming out, they thought she had and peeled off, and the forward just pulled through the middle and put it in.”

As the final insult to injuries – which, in the final 20 minutes of the second half, also included senior midfielder Adrianna Baeza – the lights at Roswell’s soccer complex malfunctioned with around 25 minutes to go in the game, and the officials opted to continue on what little daylight remained.

“In my opinion, it wasn’t really a fair opportunity to continue on with the game like that,” Trentham said. “I think they should’ve stopped the game and got the lights working; you could maybe see about 10 or 15 yards in front of you.”

Instead, the officials offered Trentham the option of ending the contest early, which he naturally refused, letting his athletes battle out the final minutes of their season.

“It was all just very frustrating,” said the coach. “I would’ve been okay with a loss if it had felt like we played as good a game as we could’ve played and had given them 100 percent of what we had, but it just felt like that wasn’t there for us.”

But while the ending wasn’t a happy one, the 2017 Lady Bulldogs still leave an impressive season behind them, closing out with a best-ever record of 15-6.

“We had a really great season,” said Trentham. “Aside from those two losses to Roswell at the end, we finished 6-2 in our last eight games and were right there in the hunt for a district championship. And this was the first season where we weren’t just winning as much as we were losing – we were having success, and that’ll be good for the girls moving forward to be able to build on that confidence and have the expectation that next year, we can do the same thing, only better.”

The Lady ‘Dogs will bid farewell to some quality seniors in Cardenas, Baeza, Govea, Kiersten Hernandez, Ariah Salazar, Emily Garcia, Kaylee Rojo, Ashley Hernes and Jazmin Luevano but will return a large portion of their starting lineup.

“The silver lining is that most of what we finished with Friday on the field will be varsity starters next year, so it was good for them to get some quality playing time, especially at that level,” Trentham said. “Our seniors this year did a fantastic job. They were great leaders. We’ve never had that much senior leadership at one time; we’d have one or two, but this year, we had five or six really good seniors who stepped up and not only led on the field but led in practices and off the field, too.

“This program is finally getting to where it should be, and things are looking great for next year. We’ve had back-to-back playoff experiences, so it’s an exciting time for girls’ soccer. We’ll be sad to see these seniors go because they’re some great players and really great kids, but we’ll have one more opportunity to recognize them for their accomplishments Nov. 13 at our banquet, and I know the girls who are coming back are already looking forward to what they can do next year.”