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Lady Coyotes play lights out; Down Artesia 3-0 to advance in state tourney

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Roswell High School senior Steffania Martinez kicks the ball into the back of the net for a goal against Artesia Friday at the Cielo Grande Soccer Complex. (David Rocha Photo)

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The Roswell High Lady Coyote soccer team turned in, arguably, one of their most complete performances of the season as they shut out district rival Artesia 3-0 at chilly, dark Cielo Grande in the opening round of the Fuddruckers Girls State 5A Soccer Championships. The match, played without lights due to an electronic malfunction, saw the Coyotes take control early in the second half and coast to the win.

The Lady Bulldogs (15-6) had beaten the Coyotes twice earlier in the season, but could not get anything past a stout Roswell High defense as they fell for the second year in a row to the Coyotes in the opening round of the state tourney.

“I mean…what can you say after something like that,” stated a happy coach Samantha Ward. “The girls came together and played hard. We are proud of them.”

Both teams came out strong with tough play on both sides – especially on the defensive front. No shots on goal were recorded by either team until the 11th minute when 8th-grader Zailor Lopez got one of which was easily saved by Maddie Battle, who recorded a shutout for the hosts.

Three minutes earlier, Elisa Cardenas, the leading scorer for the Bulldogs, went down and did not return. The visiting team was missing a step offensively from then on with a lot of the offense going through freshman Sadi Butler.

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The Coyotes started to get going offensively as Heaven Vasquez missed high and Lina Cherinko missed wide right in the 14th minute. Five minutes later, Kaleigh Holloway had a nice run from midfield, but her shot came up just short as well. After receiving the goalie kick, senior Steffania Martinez came up from her mid-field position and simply booted a high shot to the goal which took a nice bounce right over the Bulldog goalie and into the net for a 1-0 lead.

“When lucks on your side, it’s good to go,” said Ward of the fortunate bounce on the initial goal. “They have a good goalie (Jacqueline Govea) and she just made a simple mistake and one goal makes a huge difference. I think that set the tone for us tonight.”

The lead would hold up as the smothering back line of Macey Martinez, Yajarya Castillo and Zarriah Herrera would not let much past. The Coyotes would suffer a late scare when a Bulldog shot clanked off the post with three minutes to play, but that would be the closest the visitors would get.

The second half saw the Bulldogs playing with a sense of urgency and the hosts staying aggressive. That aggressiveness payed off in the 51st minute for the Coyotes as Danielle Banda would head pass a perfect ball to Holloway who would dribble once and blast one in for a 2-0 lead.

“Danielle has a great eye for the field and she knows that Kai is going to be behind her,” said Ward. “They just work really well together. They work together and they put passes together and they are hard to beat together.”

The lead would grow three minutes later as Holloway would run down a through ball, beat three defenders and put one past a charging goalie. The great effort gave the Coyotes a 3-0 lead.

“Speed up top helps, skill also, and like I’ve said earlier, Kai doesn’t like to lose,” said Ward of Holloways nice goal.

With 26 minutes still to play it became obvious that the lights were not coming on, but the two sides continued to battle in the chilly dim evening to the bitter end.

The Coyotes (13-8 overall) now prepare to face top-seeded and defending state champion Albuquerque Academy in the quarterfinals. The game will be played in Bernalillo on Thursday at 9:30 a.m.

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