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The 2018 Bulldog volleyball team poses for a photo Wednesday before department for state. (Teresa Lemon – Daily Press)

The third-seeded Bulldog volleyball team didn’t get off to quite the start it had hoped for this morning in the pool play round of the Class 4A State Volleyball Tournament, splitting its matches with No. 6 Pojoaque and No. 10 Albuquerque Academy and finishing third in the pool by point differential.

Artesia opened the morning on the right foot against Academy, taking Game One of that two-set match with little difficulty, 25-18.

The ‘Dogs got a leg up early in the bout from Elliot Harrison, who served up five consecutive points – including a trio of aces – to give the girls in orange a 13-8 edge. The Chargers were able to pull back within two midway through, 16-14, but a service point apiece from Dezaray Boyce, Paityn Houghtaling and Kyra Gonzales kept the Bulldogs in control, 22-17.

A missed block briefly returned the ball to Academy, but a Malori McSpadden kill put it right back into the hands of Harrison, who delivered the final two points – the last coming on a hard hit by Boyce – in the seven-point win.

The ‘Dogs came out sluggish in Game Two, however, and tumbled into a deep hole earlier, surrendering seven straight points to the Chargers, most by way of defensive miscues and blocks and hits into the net.

That spotted Academy an 11-4 lead, and Artesia was never able to regain its footing from there.

The ‘Dogs had an opportunity to rally back late, thanks to six straight points from Kersie Beltran – punctuated by kills from Boyce and Houghtaling – but a botched pass gave the ball back to Academy with a 20-15 lead, and the Chargers would maintain control from there en route to the 25-18 win.

Albuquerque Academy went on to also split with Pojoaque, however, 24-26, 25-20, giving the girls in orange a chance of locking up the pool’s top seed with a sweep of the Elks.

But once again, unforced errors added up for the Bulldogs and resulted in a significant early lead for Pojoaque, which used a string of eight points to go up 14-8.

Makinli Taylor came in off the bench for the ‘Dogs and was able to post a pair of service points, but Pojoaque was first over the 20-point mark. Two more from the line by Kyrah Gonzales late made it 17-22, and two more from Harrison brought Artesia within striking distance, 20-23, but two serves out of bounds stymied the Bulldogs’ comeback efforts, 22-25.

Pojoaque again took an early lead in Game Two of the match and was able to maintain it through the midway point, 13-9. Two points from Gonzales – logged on kills from McSpadden and Kaylee Wagner – however brought Artesia back within a point, and after falling behind by four again, Boyce would serve up three – with help from a pair of Houghtaling kills and one by Payton Chandler – to give the ‘Dogs their first lead since the opening points, 20-19.

Hits out of bounds kept the girls in orange from putting the bout away quickly, but successful kills from Chandler and Houghtaling helped keep the Bulldogs in front en route to game point, which Harrison put down, 25-23.

Unfortunately, the tight scores did not work out in the ‘Dogs’ favor when points were added up to break the tie, and Artesia found themselves in third. They’ll take on Pool A No. 2 Santa Teresa at 5:15 p.m. today for the right to advance to the quarterfinal round.

Other first-round matches this afternoon will include Pool D No. 3 Los Alamos vs. Pool B. No. 2 Hope Christian; Pool A No. 3 Silver vs. Pool C No. 2 Academy; and Pool B No. 3 Kirtland Central vs. Pool D No. 2 Los Lunas.

Earning byes through to Friday’s 1:15 p.m. quarterfinal matches were Pool A No. 1 St. Pius, Pool B No. 1 Espanola Valley, Pool C No. 1 Pojoaque, and Pool D No. 1 Goddard.