The Great Northern League’s 2A boys district soccer playoffs start Thursday and promise to be as competitive, entertaining and unpredictable as any in recent memory.
Cheney coach Matt Kiver’s Blackhawks (11-4 overall, 10-2 in the GNL) have lost in the State 2A finals each of the last three years and are seeded No. 3, but they come in playing as well as any team in the league.
“I think that’s one of the most important factors – the momentum you have going into this,” said Kiver, whose team has won seven of eight matches, including the last four, to close the regular season. “But at this time of the year, anything can happen, because no one wants this to be their last game.”
The No. 1 district seed, East Valley (12-2, 10-2) edged second-seeded Pullman (10-5, 9-3) for the league title, beating the Greyhounds twice during the regular season. But the Knights split their two games against Cheney and fourth-seeded Medical Lake (10-6, 7-5).
EV also played Greater Spokane League 4A power Mead to a scoreless tie and thumped another GSL team, University, 3-0. Cheney, meanwhile, knocked off Mead 2-1 in a nonleague game and pushed GSL regular-season champion Ferris to the limit before losing 2-1.
“The fact that Great Northern teams are able to compete like that against the GSL in nonconference games says something about the talent in our league,” Kiver said. “And even though we only get two regional (playoff) berths – and the Columbia Basin League gets four – I think whatever two teams make it from out district are going to have a great chance of getting to state, just because our league is that strong.”
In Thursday’s opening round of the District 7 2A playoffs, Cheney entertains sixth-seeded Deer Park (4-11, 2-10), and Medical Lakes host No. 5 seed West Valley (5-10, 4-8). Both matches start at 4 p.m.
The Cheney-Deer Park winner advances to face Pullman in Pullman on Saturday, with the Medical Lake-West Valley winner earning a shot at East Valley that same day. Both semifinal matches start at noon, with the winners of those advancing to the district championship, which will be held at Gonzaga Prep at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
“Even those other two teams (West Valley and Deer Park) are capable of surprising, because they had to work hard to get there, and they’ve both become better along the way,” Kiver said.
Cheney’s chances of making it to state again were enhanced by the late-season return of three-year letter winner and senior midfielder/forward Xavier Day, who missed the first 10 games after undergoing knee surgery.
Day still is not 100 percent physically, but he is getting closer every day, according to his coach.
“Whatever he can give us is a bonus,” Kiver said. “Two of the biggest things he brings to us his leadership and desire. He’s been to state the last three years and know what it takes.
“So regardless of where he is with his rehab, those other things make his return even more important.”
GSL opens 4A districts
The Greater Spokane League’s District 8 4A playoffs open today with a doubleheader at Albi Stadium.
Third-seeded Lewis and Clark (8-7 overall, 6-3 in the GSL) will take on No. 4 Central Valley (7-5, 5-4) in the 4 p.m. loser-out game, and top-seeded Ferris (12-2, 8-1) will meet No. 2 Mead (9-2, 8-1) in the 8 p.m. nightcap that will determine the GSL’s No. 1 seed in the 4A regional.
The Ferris-Mead loser will then square off against the winner of tonight’s LC-CV matchup at Albi at 6 p.m. Tuesday to determine the league No. 2 and No. 3 Regional seeds.
Painful close to career
Gonzaga Prep’s three-sport standout and leading scorer Shane Schmidlkofer, who was featured in a story in last Wednesday’s Spokesman-Review, tore an anterior cruciate ligament in his knee that same night while scoring a first-half goal in a 2-1 Greater Spokane League loss to Ferris. The injury kept the senior forward from playing the Bullpups’ regular-season finale, a 3-0 loss to Lewis and Clark.