Blackhawks face challenges in wins over Spokane Valley schools
Cheney midfielder Micah Weller watches his shot begin to head past the West Valley goalkeeper for a score in the Blackhawks’ 3-0 road win over the Eagles.
Last week’s contests on the pitch at East Valley and West Valley finally gave the Cheney High boys soccer team something they needed – a challenge.
The Blackhawks faced a physical second-place Knights team looking to edge closer in the standings Tuesday, matching their physicality for a 3-1 win. Thursday Cheney overcame lethargic play and an upset-minded Eagles team for a 3-0 win, running their winning streak to eight, unbeaten in Great Northern League play at 10-0, 11-2 overall.
Head coach Mark Kiver said junior midfielder Nick Steele provided a big spark for the Blackhawks, coming off the bench with energy and smart play in both games and getting Cheney’s first goal in the 33rd minute against East Valley for a 1-0 halftime lead. In the 56th minute, Ian Schmandel found Trevan Estrellado for a score and 2-0 lead.
East Valley got on the board four minutes later after a handball in the 6-yard box awarded the Knights a penalty kick. Senior forward Adam Talley’s shot was blocked by goalkeeper Joe Scott, as was a rebound attempt. Scott couldn’t get back into position to block a third as Kiver said the players were a little slow to respond to the deflections. Micah Weller added an unassisted goal in the 78th minute to give Cheney some insurance.
The Blackhawks out shot East Valley 11-7 with Scott making four saves.
“We wanted a game where we played hard and earned everything we could,” Kiver said.
Kiver said he wasn’t sure if the team had a hangover from the East Valley win, heavy legs as the season winds down or was influenced by a West Valley team trying to get into their heads, but it took a while for the Blackhawks to get any rhythm Thursday.
Cheney finally scored in the 34th minute when Schmandel floated a pass over the heads of Eagle defenders and Weller, who quickly tracked it down and sent home a shot past the charging goalkeeper for the eight-yard score.
“That was a great ball from him (Schmandel) to get that done,” Kiver said.
Schmandel gave Cheney a 2-0 in the second half, fielding a pass from Weller and firing a shot from straight on just inside the 18 that arced into the left side of the net. Steele added a goal off another assist by Weller in the 75th minute.
Cheney out shot West Valley 8-5 with Scott making five saves.
Kiver and assistant coach Matt Pollack weren’t sure what to tell the players at the half to get them turned around, and in the end it was the players themselves solving the problem. Kiver said the players know they made mistakes and know they need to grow from those to get better each game.
“We just can’t settle,” he said. “We’ve always got to get better.”
Cheney has two more chances to grow and improve before the postseason begins, traveling to sixth-place Clarkston (2-9, 4-9, 8 points) Tuesday for a late 6 p.m. game and then turning around less than 48 hours later for a trip to fourth-place Pullman (6-4, 8-6 18 points) Thursday.
“It’s going to be another physical and mental test for us,” Kiver said.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.