Blackhawks down Pullman in battle for first-place
Win at Clarkston helps Cheney enter spring break atop Great Northern League soccer standings
By JOHN McCALLUM
The Cheney boys’ soccer team survived their longest road trips of the season last week, emerging with a pair of wins at Clarkston and Pullman that gave them sole possession of first place in the Great Northern League.
Tuesday the Blackhawks overcame a scrappy, physical Clarkston team and a narrow, scraped up field for a 3-0 win. Cheney head coach Mark Kiver said the Bantams field has parts without grass, and parts covered in sand which, combined with the pitch being just 50 yards wide, created some uncertainty for the visitors.
“You never know what’s going to happen with the ball,” Kiver said.
The Bantams got a couple good early scoring opportunities, but couldn’t connect, thanks to the Blackhawks defense, with goalkeeper Kam Cruz tipping one shot over the crossbar. Kiver said Clarkston’s game plan appeared to assume a lot of goal kicks off Cheney missed shots, and set their alignment to take advantage of long, downfield kicks to try to create breakaway opportunities.
The Blackhawks’ defense held and the offense finally broke through into the scoring column with Tad Tinker’s goal in the 23rd minute. Ian Schimandle made it 2-0 with a goal in the 53rd minute, and Micah Weller added the final margin on a penalty kick in the 67th minute resulting from Trevan Estrellado getting taken down inside the box.
Cheney out shot Clarkston 11-4 with Galm making four saves.
The win set up a showdown for the league lead Thursday at Pullman. Kiver said the Greyhounds’ crowd can be loud and obnoxious at times, but their field, at 80 yards wide, can play into Cheney’s game plan of stretching out opposing lineups and swinging the ball from side to side, looking for openings.
Pullman’s Moritz Lange gave the home team a 1-0 lead with a goal off a long free kick in the ninth minute, the first time Cheney has been scored on in GNL play this season. Kiver said his team responded well, making adjustments defensively by picking up their marks better and marking the correct players.
Estrellado evened things with a goal four minutes after Lange’s. Cheney eventually gained the momentum, out-shooting Pullman 10-0 in the second half, which culminated with the eventual game-winner by Estrellado in the 70th minute.
Schimandle provided insurance with a goal in the 79th minute in the 3-1 win. Cheney out shot Pullman 12-3, with Galm making two saves.
Cheney enters the spring break at 6-0 in the GNL, 18 points, 7-1-2 overall. Kiver said his team was more tired after the two road trips last week than they were from an early-seasonstretch where they played five games in six days, three against Greater Spokane League 4A opponents.
The Blackhawks will take a couple days to rest, returning to the practice pitch Thursday in preparation for the second round of league play. Cheney travels to Deer Park (0-6, 0-8) Tuesday and Colville (2-4, 3-4, 6 points) next Thursday before finishing the regular season with three of their final four games at home.
Kiver said the team is coming together well as a unit, but knows they still have work to do and areas to improve in if they hope to reach the state finals in Sumner in late May to defend their title.
“They’re getting there,” Kiver said. “They’re getting to the point where they are creating an identity.”
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.