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Kersie Beltran sets the ball as Dezaray Boyce (11) prepares to step up for the hit during Game Two Saturday at Bulldog Pit. (Brienne Green – Daily Press)

Losing starters, no matter how many, is always going to be a jolt to the system of any team.

Not only does it force people into roles with which their unfamiliar, it alters game plans and affects the general morale of the squad.

Despite their best efforts, those factors popped up to hinder the Bulldog volleyball team Oct. 2 in Roswell, and the result was a loss to a Coyote team Artesia had beaten thrice previously.

But Saturday at Bulldog Pit, the girls in orange stepped up and adjusted accordingly, battling their way to a 3-0 victory over Class 5A Hobbs to close out the pre-district season on a high note.

“I was pleased with the way they played,” head coach Alan Williams said Saturday. “I thought we did a really good job overall.”

After falling behind the Eagles 7-9 in the early goings of the opener Saturday, four service points from Kersie Beltran – aided by a Dezaray Boyce tip over the night and a block by Presley Skinner – gave the Bulldogs a slight lead, but from there, the teams would trade one-point advantages past the midway point.

A pair of Boyce kills in the service of Makinli Taylor finally gave the ‘Dogs a bit of breathing room, and although Hobbs would knot the game once again late at 21-all, two points from Elliot Harrison and an Eagle hit into the net ended the threat, 25-22.

Harrison picked up where she’d left off in the second set, serving up five straight to start the game with one ace and a kill from Payton Chandler. That gave Artesia cushion enough to calmly overcome any minor glitches that surfaced.

Two points apiece by Taylor, Beltran and Boyce saw the Bulldogs double up on the Eagles late, 16-8, and Artesia reached the 20-point mark one service later on three from service by Harrison and another Chandler kill.

Hobbs was able to stave off the inevitable through four more side-outs, but Taylor would serve out the contest with Boyce slamming the final point home, 25-12.

The Eagles fought to keep things close throughout the third set, but the momentum was firmly in Artesia’s court, and the ‘Dogs were able to close out the match with a 25-20 win.

“We did a good job with our setting and hitting,” said Williams. “Our offense was good overall, and we served the ball well.

“We could’ve done a little better job with our passing. The first game, we struggled a little bit digging wise, but we did better with that in the second and third games, I thought.”

Taylor finished with 15 digs on the afternoon, Chandler 10 kills, Paityn Houghtaling six blocks, and Beltran 30 assists.

The Bulldogs (11-3) now head into a 10-day layoff prior to the start of district play Oct. 16 against Lovington at the Pit. They’ll use that time to their advantage, shoring up their problem areas and turning their focus to Lovington, Goddard and Portales.

“We’ve seen some holes in our defense over the past few games, so we’re going to work on that,” said Williams. “We’ve also lost a little bit of consistency in our serving, so that’ll be another focus. We’re just going to be looking to find ways to stay motivated and have fun in practice during this time off.

“We’ll be able to get back to playing as a team with all 12 girls, which will help us focus going into district. Goddard is going to be tough to beat. I know we’ve played them a couple of times and beaten them, but we expect them to get better, and with their size, it’s going to be a battle. Portales is a good team that’s had a lot of success in the past, and it’ll be interesting to have them in the district for the first time since I’ve been here. And Lovington seems better than they’ve been in the past, so we’ll just get ready to start with them and go from there.”