A little more than a year ago the Oly Town FC women’s outdoor soccer team was simply trying to field a team before the start of its inaugural season. Now, the Artesians have a new task – figuring out where to put their new shiny trophy. Approximately 14 months after their formation, Oly Town captured the Northwest Premier League championship with a 3-2 (4-2 PK) road victory over top-seeded Capital FC in Salem, Oregon to close out its sophomore season.
“It’s fortunate we were able to take an idea and complete that idea with a championship,” said head coach Matt Herrera, who also serves as one of the co-owners of Oly Town FC. “To be honest, I had very little to do with it. It was the girls. They competed all season. We took this random group of 16 players, and they just continued to progress all season long with their skill sets and, more importantly, their chemistry. I am very proud of them.”
The Artesians had dropped both its regular season contests against Capital FC, and a third setback was a minute away from occurring before Oly Town’s Brieanna Dell evened up the match at 2-2 with her goal during stoppage play in the 89th minute.
“Playing on that turf it had to be 95 degrees,” said Oly Town captain Delaney Smith. “And the entire team just worked until the very end to tie it up. I think that really shows how determined we were to win a championship.”
Once the match headed to PKs, all the momentum was on the side of the Artesians.
“We were all pumped,” Smith said. “The adrenaline was definitely flowing.”
Oly Town went a perfect 4-for-4 on PKs, with Nicole Fesenbek, Brooke Streeter, Haylee Ward and Chelsie Still all finding the back of the, while Artesian goal keeper Olivia Ward came up with two big saves to secure the victory.
“I’ve known Olivia since she was in youth soccer. I know how incredible she is,” Herrera said. “So, when we went to PKs, we all knew what she was going to do. I told our assistant coach she only had to make one save and we’d win. I’d was confident she’d do that. Turns out I was wrong, she made two saves.”
The Artesians closed out the regular season with back-to-back shutouts, knocking off the Oly-Pen Force, 5-0, before blanking the Vancouver Victory, 3-0, to secure a trip to the NWPL championship.
Following a scoreless opening 40 minutes in the title match, Oly Town got on the scoreboard first on a Ward tally in the 41st minute. Capital FC was able to find the equalizer before the intermission and grabbed a 2-1 lead with its second goal in the 69th minute.
“Even when we went down and were trailing late I don’t think the team ever had any doubts about the outcome,” Herrera said. “Everyone was positive the entire time. I think they knew eventually we’d tie it up.”
Which happened when Ward assisted on Dell’s goal in the waning moments of regulation.
“When you have a late goal like that,” Herrera said, “That solely comes down to these players playing for each other, and that’s what they did all season.”
Capital FC, a franchise that was celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, defeated Oly Town, 3-2, in the season opener before edging the Artesians, 1-0, in the rematch.
“Between the first two games and the last three games it was just night and day different with this team,” Herrera said about his squad’s improvement. “It was such a short season that we really wanted to focus on team chemistry and playing as one unit. The girls really took to that. It was really fun to watch it all come together at the end.”
According to Smith, the championship ending was a far cry from where the season started.
“We started the season with six or eight girls at practice, and the turnaround was amazing,” Smith said. “The first game we basically had two subs, but we were able to get more to come out and developed those relationships. Team chemistry was as big of a part of (us winning). We care about each other. (In the championship) it was hot, it was a long drive, we made mistakes, but everyone was out there fighting for each other.”
The Artesian players will be honored during the Oly Town men’s USL2 match against visiting Ballard FC at Black Hills High School on Thursday, July 7.
“We’ve definitely talked about everyone coming back,” said Smith when asked if the discussion of defending their title had already surfaced. “We all want to win and be together as a team. We just want to keep the chemistry going into next season.”