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With an overall record of 18-2 and a District 4-AAAAA mark of 5-1, the Bulldog volleyball team has already punched its ticket to the Class 5A State Tournament.

But they’d rather head to Albuquerque with a pair of district crowns in hand.

After coming out on top of regular-season district play, the ‘Dogs earned the top seed in this week’s D4 Tournament and a bye through the championship match. That gave them seven days to prepare for the squad that would earn its way to the final, and while many suspected that would be Roswell High – the team that handed Artesia its lone district loss Oct. 26 on the road – that didn’t turn out to be the case.

Goddard (10-12, 3-3) popped up to surprise the Coyotes 3-2 Thursday at Roswell High, taking the first two games, then battling back from consecutive losses to win the deciding fifth and a spot in Saturday’s tourney title tilt.

The opponent, however, was never the focus of the ‘Dogs, who have spent the past week honing their skills to ensure they close out the regular season on a high note.

“We didn’t know who we were going to end up playing, so we’ve just continued to work on the fundamentals,” head coach Alan Williams said today. “Defense and serve-receive have been big parts of the game for us, so we’ve worked a lot on that the last couple of days.

“We’ve tried to keep practices comparable to a game, because when you go a long stretch without playing, you have to make sure you keep your focus.”

The Bulldogs have thrice defeated the Rockets this season, with all three matches ending in the same score: 3-0.

That doesn’t mean, however, the bouts have been a cakewalk. With the exception of a 25-12 win over Goddard in Game Three of their most recent match Oct. 24, every district set between Artesia and the girls in blue has been a battle, won by four points or fewer.

As such, the ‘Dogs are well aware of what they’ll need to do to be successful Saturday.

“One of the things (Goddard) does really well is block,” said Williams. “They’re tall, and they block the ball well, so we have to make adjustments with that on offense.

“They have a couple of girls who are good at hitting the ball, but if we do things right on our side of the net, things should take care of themselves.”

And what Artesia must do isn’t limited to volleyball mechanics; the Bulldogs can’t let their success against the Rockets to this point affect their mentality.

“We have to pull together as a team, play for one another, and do our best to encourage each other,” Williams said. “We just need to stay positive. I really think we control our destiny. We can beat anybody if we’ll just play as a team.”

The district championship match is set to begin at 6 p.m. Saturday at Bulldog Pit, and Artesians are encouraged to turn out in support of the Bulldogs.

“We just hope to have a good crowd there to cheer us on,” said Williams.