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Bulldog senior Paityn Houghtaling spikes the ball through a Carlsbad block during Game One Tuesday at the Pit. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

Opening their own 2018 season with the volleyball version of the Eddy County War, the girls in orange struck a blow for the North Tuesday at Bulldog Pit, sweeping the Class 5A Cavegirls in three straight, 25-17, 25-22, 25-12.

Before a sizable and vocal crowd at the Pit – including many enthusiastic members of the football team – the Artesia netters overcame a few first-game jitters in the opening bouts to make quick work of Carlsbad in the third.

“It was good to have a win in our first match, but it was definitely the first match of the year,” head coach Alan Williams said following the contest. “Both teams were a little rusty. We had a lot of new girls playing, and they were a little nervous, so tonight was just kind of about getting a feel for it, and we’ll continue to get better from here.”

The ‘Dogs got off to a slow start in Game One Tuesday, falling behind the Cavegirls and trading slight leads from there before a five-point service by Kersie Beltron propelled Artesia to the 20-point mark, 20-14.

From there, a pair of service points by Dezaray Boyce – including an ace – and a tip over the net by Paityn Houghtaling took the Bulldogs to game point, and a kill from Boyce ended the bout, 25-17.

The early goings of the second game were similar to the first as the teams struggled through unforced errors, miscommunications and mishits.

With the Cavegirls up 9-8, four points from the line by Houghtaling gave Artesia a cushion, and though Carlsbad would pull back within one midway through, three more service points from Malori McSpadden, Houghtaling/Kaylee Wagner and McSpadden/Payton Chandler blocks, and kills from Boyce and Houghtaling kept the ‘Dogs in front through the conclusion, 25-22.

The girls in orange left nothing up in the air in the third game, however, jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the service of Kyrah Gonzales, then charging out to a 12-1 advantage on an eight-point service by Elliot Harrison that included three aces and a Boyce kill.

Carlsbad could never recover from there. Three more points from Harrison late helped take Artesia to match point, which was delivered in the form of an ace off the top of the net by sophomore Presley Skinner.

“I told the girls I was really pleased with our serving tonight,” said Williams. “I think that really made the difference in the match. It showed a lot more in the third game, with Elliot starting us off with a lot of points, but throughout the match, we were serving the right locations, and I think that gave them a lot of trouble.”

Williams said he was also pleased with his teams passing, particularly for an opener.

“At this time in the season, usually the passing is not very good, but we did a really good job of passing the serve,” said the coach. “What we struggled with, though, was defense, so we just need to learn to anticipate and move a little better, and I think we’ll get better with that.”

The Bulldogs will have another home match Thursday at 7 p.m. against Class 5A Clovis before hitting the road for the early part of September. They’ll travel to a tournament in Las Cruces Sept. 7-8 and to Clovis Sept. 11 before returning home Sept. 13 to take on now-Class 5A Roswell High.

“Thursday will be our last home game for quite a while,” Williams said. “Clovis is a little more athletic than Carlsbad, and they have some strong outside hitters. We just got through playing them in a scrimmage on Saturday, so we’re pretty familiar with them. There are things we’ll be working on tomorrow, and hopefully, we’ll show improvement.

“I think it’s going to be a fun year. The girls have a good spirit about them, and I think they have a lot to look forward to.”