The Oly Town Artesians enter their fifth season with a lot of question marks after a tough 2017-2018 campaign. But head coach Matt Herrera returns for his second season on the bench looking for improvement from an inexperienced squad just learning to play indoors.
“This season will depend on how quickly our newcomers can learn the indoor game,” said Artesians General Manager Brandon Sparks. “We depend on young guys or college players more than any other club in the WISL, so we have a lot of turnover from year to year. But there is a core group of experienced players that are helping the new guys come along.”
Longtime indoor soccer veteran Matt Stalnik returns to the Artesians’ front line with 22 career goals for the club over four seasons. He missed big chunks of both the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 season with a catastrophic knee injury and rounded into form last season, leading the team in goals with nine.
On defense, Brett Stallworth has played 29 straight games and has yet to miss a contest during his three seasons with the Artesians. Other returners to the back line include Nate Boatright and TJ O’Connor. But there will be one big defensive player missing, at least for a while.
“Losing JJ Olson to injury is tough,” continued Sparks. “He has been a consistent presence in goal for us. Now we will need someone to step up and take a big step forward.”
Keepers in camp competing for time include Shelton native Bradley Hanson – who won one WISL Defensive Player of the Week award in a loss to Bellingham last season that saw Olson play the field – and Ryan Perkins, who was also pressed into service once last season.
The Artesians’ “temporary” home at The Pavilion at The Evergreen State College received a big renovation over the summer, including a new roof and major aesthetic improvements, but the field is still the smallest in the WISL and the building is still partially open to the elements.
“The Pavilion might be the best arena for fans to actually view the game in the WISL and we use it to our advantage to make things loud and fun,” said Sparks. “But the small size makes the game tough on our players when we go on the road. Playing on those much larger fields is something we can’t train for at The Pavilion.”
While success on the field has been inconsistent, the Artesians are constantly pushing to put on the best show in the WISL year to year, and 2017-2018 was their best season off-the-field.
“We have tremendous fans that make the trip to Evergreen for games,” exclaimed Sparks. “And this season we are going to do even more for them with more contests, an inflatable soccer darts game for kids, theme nights, kids going crazy on the field during halftime, and a lot more.”
“What happens on the field is unknowable, but what is knowable is that if you come out to an Artesians game, you will get to see a true community celebration and you will have a good time.”