Published: 4:17 pm, Fri. Aug. 31st, 2018Updated: 4:16 pm
The Bulldog volleyball team capped off its season-opening, two-game home stand Thursday with another decisive victory, improving to 2-0 with a three-game sweep of Clovis, 25-13, 25-17 and 25-23.
Artesia was able to test out a variety of offensive strategies over the course of the two matches, giving their outside hitters a workout Tuesday against Carlsbad and doing more of their damage at the net against the Class 6A Lady Wildcats.
“They were just two really different games,” head coach Alan Williams said Thursday. “Tuesday, we were hitting the ball hard, and tonight, Clovis plays their defense so deep that we had to do a lot of tipping.”
The “small ball” approach served the girls in orange well, particularly in the first game of the night.
Artesia jumped out to a quick 16-7 lead as Clovis’s defense struggled to dig the dinks and blocks. The ‘Dogs’ momentum slowed a bit midway through, leading the teams to trade seven side-outs with no service points. But an ace from the line by Dezaray Boyce took the Bulldogs over the 20-point mark, 21-11, and a service point apiece from Paityn Houghtaling and Kyrah Gonzales ended the bout, 25-13.
It was Artesia’s defense’s turn to be caught off guard as Game Two commenced, and Clovis took full advantage, bounding out to a 5-0 lead on a rash of unforced errors by the ‘Dogs.
A hit out of bounds ended the run, however, and Gonzales would serve Artesia back within two, 5-3, before Elliot Harrison stormed the line, delivering six consecutive points – including a pair of aces, a Boyce kill, and a Gonzales set over the net – to put the Bulldogs on top.
Kills from Boyce, Houghtaling and Harrison helped keep Artesia in front through the halfway point, 15-10, and a five-point service from Houghtaling made it 21-10.
Clovis’s penultimate service was ended by a solid defensive dive from Harrison that popped the ball up for a Malori McSpadden kill, and a Kaylee Wagner spike ended the game, 25-17.
The ‘Dogs were the offensive aggressors to start Game Three, as Gonzales served a 5-0 advantage, but the Lady ‘Cats were able to inch back into striking distance from there, eventually making it 10-9.
Three and two service points respectively by Boyce and Houghtaling – including an ace apiece – helped give the Bulldogs back some breathing room, but Clovis would again storm back, pulling within two, 20-18, late.
A run of side-outs saw Artesia hanging onto their lead, 23-20, in the final points before a pair of hits out of bounds made it a one-point affair, 23-22. A tip out by Clovis was followed by a successful Lady ‘Cat block, but with the score at 24-23, Payton Chandler posted the match-winning kill.
“The first two games, we played really well,” Williams said. “The second game was a little rougher start with our serve-receive and some of the decisions we made, but we came back and played well.
“It’s hard when you beat a team in the first two games like that to keep it going at the same level. They started making adjustments in the third game, so we had to make our own adjustments, and we were able to get it done. Overall, games like this help us get better, and I’m proud of the way the girls came out and played tonight.”
The Bulldogs will now have a week to prepare for their first road trip to the Jane Leupold Sweet 16 tournament in Las Cruces.
Artesia will begin pool play at 9:45 a.m. Sept. 7, competing at Centennial High School against Centennial, El Paso Loretto Academy, and Deming. From there, teams will be seeded into either the Gold or Bronze bracket according to record.
“We have a little bit of time before the tournament, so we’re just going to keep working on our fundamentals – our passing, serving – and we’ve got a couple of girls that are dinged up, so maybe we can get some time for them to rest,” Williams said. “Other than that, we’re just having fun out here.”