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In this Daily Press file photo, Abigail Rios darts away from the Santa Teresa defense during the first half Saturday at The Mack. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

If not for a six-minute letdown late in the first half Tuesday at the Mack Chase Athletic Complex, the Lady Bulldog soccer team might have limited Class 5A nemesis Carlsbad to just a pair of goals.

A loss would still have been a loss, but that’s never Artesia’s focus when competing against the Cavegirls, head coach Tim Trentham says. Versus higher-classification opponents like Carlsbad, Hobbs and Clovis, it’s all about the team proving something to itself.

And for the most part, Tuesday, Trentham feels they did.

“It’s not anything we did wrong, per say,” Trentham said today, following Artesia’s 5-0 loss to the Cavegirls. “Carlsbad just has really quality players across the board. They have a larger talent pool. They have a bigger city league. When we play them or Hobbs or Clovis, we take those games with a grain of salt, because it’s really not indicative of what we’re doing or not doing. It’s just going up against better-quality opponents.”

For the majority of the first half Tuesday, the Lady Bulldogs did a solid job of holding the Cavegirls at bay. Carlsbad was finally able to post its first goal at the 23:08 mark.

“For quite a while there in the first half, we absorbed a lot of their pressure,” said Trentham. “After the first 10 minutes, the pace kind of changed, and we were able to counter a little bit and settle down. We weren’t back on our heels, we were passing out, getting good counters, and they weren’t able to keep the pressure completely on our side.”

With 6:16 to go in the half, however, the Cavegirls struck again, and unfortunately, the floodgates opened from there. Carlsbad would log two more goals in the final moments leading up to the break, in the 35th and 38th minutes respectively.

“That’s kind of been the Achilles heel of our team,” said Trentham. “Whenever the other team is able to start getting that pressure and we give up a goal, it just deflates us. It was a one-right-after-the-other situation from there.”

Carlsbad was able to round out the final just under two minutes into the second half on a rough goal that saw the initial shot blocked by Artesia keeper Kamiley Marquez. With no one there to clear it, however, Marquez was left scrambling to reach it, and the Cavegirls were able to send in the rebound.

From there, however, the Lady ‘Dogs stepped up their aggressiveness to hold Carlsbad at bay.

“I thought we did great in the second half,” Trentham said. “They had that early goal, but the rest of the half, I was proud of the way we played. I thought we did a lot better. We were being physical, and we played like we should’ve been playing in the first half.

“We had some chances. It’s not like they completely shut us down, and given what they’ve done against our district opponents, I’m pretty content with the score line. I just want my kids to give it everything and not be afraid that it’s Carlsbad, and I thought they did that in the second half. They had a lot more fight out there.”

The Artesia girls (6-5) will now prepare to spend next week on the road, heading first to Roswell High at 6 p.m. Tuesday before travelling to Ruidoso Saturday, Sept. 29, for 1 a p.m. third meeting with the Lady Warriors.

“Roswell is, I think, going to be a good matchup,” said Trentham. “I expect that game to be a real good test of where we’re at.”

The Lady Coyotes are currently 7-3-1 on the year with a range of scores that are a bit difficult to assess, such as a 2-2 tie with Goddard Sept. 6, followed by a 9-3 loss to the Lady Rockets Saturday.

“We’re doing a lot of the right things right now,” Trentham said. “We have a brand-new defense from last year. Only one person returned there, and what we were doing to start the year is not what we’re doing now, so we’re getting better, and I think we’re going to see that playing better competition like Carlsbad is going to have strengthened us more in that area.

“We’re looking at a good, intense game from Roswell. Goddard was always the dominant one in the district, so it was usually us and Roswell battling it out for second, and a good rivalry has been built between the two teams. I think (Roswell coach) Samantha (Ward) and I both look forward to these games, because we know they’re always intense and both of us have to be on top of our game coaching, as well.”