Despite losing six seniors, Cheney boys have plenty of experience, talent returning for another chance at the elusive 2A state soccer championship
Like many spring sports coaches this time of year, Cheney High head coach Mark Kiver is cautiously optimistic about his team’s chances for success.
The Blackhawks lost six seniors from last year’s team that made its fourth appearance in five years in the 2A state title game, coming up short in a 3-1 loss to talented, senior-laden Fife. Three of those Cheney seniors were All-Great Northern League first-team selections and one – CJ Skillingstad – was the GNL’s Offensive MVP.
As in years past, Kiver and assistant coach Matt Pollock face questions about who will step up to fill rolls left vacant – but it’s not exactly like the cupboard is bare for the 2013 Blackhawks. In fact, far from it as Cheney returns 13 players from last year’s team, including a strong midfield led by juniors Micah Weller and Trevan Estrellado. Throw in returnees Daniel Bogart, who had a lot of minutes off the bench last year, and Ian Shirey and it’s a solid, experienced core.
“(They’re) some of the best midfielders on this side of the state,” said Kiver, last year’s GNL coach of the year.
That will help greatly because Cheney is looking to role players from last year’s squad to replace key players on either side of the midfield line. In the backfield Cheney is led by first-team All-GNL goalkeeper Joe Scott, who should be a vocal and physical force for the back line.
“I think he’s the best goalkeeper in the league, maybe in the Spokane area,” Kiver said.
Cheney has a couple big holes to fill with the departure of a pair of key defenders, four-time letter-winner and first-team All-GNL Evan Cook and Tyler Pratt. There is varsity experience, including in the starting role, stepping in from sophomore Cruz Galm and junior Taylor Scharff inside, and senior Andrew Horton, joined also by senior Maka Kauwe, outside.
The graduation of Skillingstad and first-team All-GNL forward Forester Seipp leaves a couple question marks regarding who will deliver the Blackhawks’ scoring punch. Again, there are players to turn to, beginning with senior Carson Lamphere, who Kiver said showed consistency as a second “go-to” offensive weapon last season.
Ian Schmandel moves up from his midfield position to forward, bringing quickness, speed and focus. Other players who could find themselves up front a lot are junior Nick Steele and sophomore Oliver Smith.
Kiver said there are others who will likely see a lot of minutes off the bench on Cheney’s 18-man roster. What was difficult was deciding who will stay at the varsity level, as Kiver feels the program has a lot of talent, and who goes to junior varsity. He and Pollock elected to keep some players at the junior varsity level who could have expanded the varsity’s depth, in favor of more playing time.
Those players can take solace though – it’s a long season.
“Sometimes they’re not quite there yet,” Kiver said. “Other times, we really need to bring this guy up, he’s really doing well. We’ll just see how things go.”
And like every year, Kiver believes the key to success is how well the Blackhawks gel as a team, who responds when the chips are down and how quickly players learn.
“This group, they’re very receptive to that,” Kiver said. “It’s a matter of the leaders stepping up and showing how we’re going to do things. This year, they have that potential.”
The Blackhawks opened with a win over Greater Spokane League projected second-place finisher Ferris, followed by a pair of GNL wins, 4-1 over Deer Park at home March 12 and 6-0 at Colville March 14. Cheney lost its last two games by identical 2-0 scores to projected GSL champ Mead last Friday, and third-place Lewis and Clark Monday.
Schmandel and Weller both notched three goals to lead Cheney in scoring over this stretch, followed by Lamphere with two and Shirey and Steele with one a piece. The Blackhawks out shot their four opponents 55-28 – 21 against both the Stags and Indians – with Scott making 18 saves and sophomore Kam Galm 16, all against Colville.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.