Cheney: Target town to title town
Boys' soccer begins defense of state title facing tough non-league schedule, injuries and varsity inexperience
Since 2009, the Cheney High boys' soccer team has entered the season with a target on its back as one of the region's premier programs - the team to beat.
The only change this year is that target now carries a title, thanks to the Blackhawks win over Tyee last year to claim their first 2A state title in their fifth trip in the last six years to the championship match. Other than that, head coach Mark Kiver said it is business as usual.
"Every year it's always a matter of sorting out what's going on, who's going to step up," Kiver said. "Same scenario, different group of kids."
Cheney lost eight players to graduation in 2013, three starters off a stout defense led by goalkeeper Joe Scott that gave up 14 goals in 22 games. Add injuries to 4-5 players and an extremely difficult opening schedule, and right now Kiver and assistant coach Matt Pollack are patching together a game-to-game lineup.
One thing they shouldn't have to worry about is scoring. Returning senior starters Micah Weller (midfield), Trevan Estrellado (forward/midfield) and Ian Schimandle (forward/midfield) accounted for 46 of Cheney's 78 points in 2013, and are getting on track five games into the season.
Also returning is senior forward Nick Steele, an attacker Kiver moved to the back line to help defensively right now. Also on the back line is junior Cruz Galm along with senior Ian Shirey and junior Tad Tinker.
Additional returnees are junior forward/midfielder Oliver Smith and junior Kam Galm, who takes over in goal. Senior defender Taylor Scharff returns, but doesn't have enough practices to play yet, something Kiver said should be remedied by Saturday's West Valley game.
After that, the Blackhawks are young but full of promise, including three freshmen Kiver said would end up "playing everywhere." It's a team that hasn't had a chance to catch its breath from a practicing standpoint, playing six games in 10 days, which leaves just two days to address issues.
"We really haven't had time to work on stuff we need to work on," Kiver said. "That said, there's a lot of good things going on."
One of those is a mental toughness and togetherness derived from adversity. Injuries and fielding a junior varsity squad has left Cheney with a short bench - three subs last Friday against Greater Spokane League 4A school Mead.
The Blackhawks were exhausted by the end of the Albi Stadium game, but were also owners of a 5-0 win. Estrellado was "unconscious," Kiver said, scoring three unassisted goals in 15 minutes, with Schimandle's goal in the 26th minute, assisted by senior forward Juan Lorenzo, giving Cheney the 4-0 halftime lead.
Schimandle added another goal in the 69th minute, assisted by Spencer Yeager. Cheney out shot Mead 7-3, with Galm making two saves and Irvin Quezuda one.
The day before, the Blackhawks got their second win of the season and in league with a 5-0 victory over visiting Colville. The score might have been higher as Cheney out shot the Indians 27-2, with almost half of those coming in the first half.
Only one connected as Weller hit Estrellado on a nice right to left pass the senior sent home from 25 yards out in the 16th minute. Schimandle notched a hat trick with three goals in the second half while Weller added one to go with two more assists.
Cheney's first win came Tuesday, convincingly downing visiting Deer Park 11-0. Lorenzo had four goals and an assist, with freshman Kelby Holland adding three goals and Weller two goals and two assists. Cheney out shot the Stags 26-5, Galm and Quezuda each making two saves.
Cheney concludes its busy start with its fourth non-league game with the GSL Monday, facing Lewis and Clark at Albi. After that the schedule becomes less frenetic, allowing Kiver and Pollack time to work on things in preparation for what will likely be another challenging and competitive GNL season.
"All these teams are gunning for us one way or another," Kiver said. "We'll get their best game."
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.