Cheney soccer embraces Liberty's Fisk, Grumbly
Soccer is sunsetting for dedicated commuting Blackhawk seniors
Last updated 9/28/2023 at 10:53am
The Cheney School District with its nearly 400 square miles is one of the largest in the state of Washington.
But for several months the past few years in the fall it's gotten quite a bit larger - nearly double - thanks to the welcoming a pair of soccer players to the Cheney High school soccer program.
Without a place to play soccer at their home school - Liberty High in Spangle - Ellie Fisk and Grace Grumbly have been able to connect with the sport they've embraced since kindergarten as members of the Blackhawks the past four years.
The pair were honored with their own Senior Day on Sept. 20 when Cheney moved its home game with Central Valley to Liberty's football field. The Blackhawks won 4-0 with Grumbly pitching in an assist on the first of Alex Miller's three goals which proved to be the game winner.
"Her (Fisk) mom started a team when we were in kindergarten, so we played on the same team," Grumbly said. "It was like a little five girl team, all girls from Liberty, but we're the only two that ever really lasted (playing)."
While the two continued to play soccer through the years, they were never on the same team and played against one another - until getting to high school Cheney where, like swimmers, are considered co-op athletes.
Originally there were some roadblocks to the pair making the 25-minute, 16-mile one way trip to Cheney.
"I think our first option was Freeman," Grumbly said. "We came to Cheney and thankful that it did end up working out."
Originally the pair had to be driven to practices and games on nearly a daily basis. The chauffeuring ended sophomore year when Fisk and Grumbly were able to drive.
It proved to be a win-win, both for Grumbly and Fisk as well as the Blackhawks' program. Cheney advanced to the state playoffs in 2021 when each scored goals in a 2-0 victory over Mead.
Fisk also scored another memorable goal in 2021 against Ferris, their coach Nels Radke fondly remembers. "That was a golden goal, which was cool because as soon as she scored then the game was over," he said.
While the soccer experiences are important, relationships the two have made top that Fisk explained.
"I think playing at Cheney has been great just not because we've gotten to play high school soccer, but because of the people we've gotten to play with," she said. "Like the chance that we've been given because of how many new friendships I've made."
The friends' soccer journey together could very well be coming to an end whenever this season concludes.
"I'm looking, I have I've been going to camps and stuff and talking to some coaches, so we'll see what comes," Grumbly said. "I'm probably gonna' go to Eastern and pursue something to do with physical therapy so I can stay connected to soccer; but I won't be playing in college."
For Fisk, "I don't know where I'm gonna' go to college," she said. "I kind of want to try somewhere new, maybe not around Spokane, but I want to go to school and be a pediatric physician's assistant."
Fisk and Grumbly have transitioned seamlessly on the soccer end, but immersion into a school 10 times as large has been somewhat eye opening. There are about 140 students at Liberty, a 2B classification school, but some 1,300 at 3A Cheney so the environment is vastly different for the rural recruits.
"It's like two hallways," Grumbly said describing Liberty. "I think it's kind of cool being in both environments."
Fisk and Grumbly have contributed in both an athletic and leadership sense.
From her outside back and forward position, Fisk possess some special tools, her coach illustrated.
"She's been a very dynamic player that is just extremely fast," Radke said. "She works extremely hard, she's a disrupter, she messes up the other team which is nice to have," he added.
As for Grumbly, "The leadership that Grace has on and off the field, especially this season, she's really stepped up, but she's always been a leader," Radke explained. "This year she's been much more of a vocal leader." Players recognized that and nominated Grumbly as a captain."
Paul Delaney is a (semi)retired Free Press Publishing reporter and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.