At Cheney High School, possession may be nine-tenths of a state soccer title.
That’s the Blackhawks’ game – the steady buildup in midfield – and has been for most of coach Mark Kiver’s 21 years as head coach.
It’s advanced them to five State 2A title games, with the big payoff finally coming in a 2-1 overtime win over Tyee.
“We just try to put the players in the right spots,” said Kiver, who’s going into his fifth year in charge of the program. “They understand the goal – I don’t have to tell them.”
Still, it was a cathartic moment for the program – its first state title – when the final whistle blew last May at Sunset Chev Stadium in Sumner.
“I cried more than I did when we lost,” said midfielder Micah Weller, who scored Cheney’s first goal in the title game. “You appreciated it more when you realize the hard work it takes to get there, because of all the hard work you put in during the season and the offseason.”
So it begins again. Cheney returns five starters, including big-time scorers Weller (14 goals last year) and strikers Treven Estrellado (15) and Ian Schimandel (17). As a team, the Blackhawks scored 78 goals and gave up just 14 en route to a 20-2 record; both losses came against 4A schools Mead and Lewis and Clark.
Junior Cruz Galm, a first-team all-GNL defender as a sophomore, should solidify an otherwise young defensive group. The rest of the lineup is a work in progress, the pieces are in place for another big run to state.
“We’ll start having some areas we need to address, but overall the guys have been in the trenches,” Kiver said.
Certainly there’s work to be done: The Blackhawk defense was tested in a 4-0 nonleague loss Saturday against Ferris, but as Estrellado said, “Coach Kiver’s philosophy is that we’re going to work until the whistle blows.”
Kiver, who’s 71-14 in four seasons at Cheney, said the biggest challenge is putting the right players in the open spots. He likes the blend of experience and youth, including new goalkeeper Kam Galm, a junior who takes over for longtime starter Joe Scott.
The rebuilding is helped, Weller said, by the Blackhawks’ winning tradition.
“We have a lot of younger players, but they know the game,” Weller said. “Our key is our chemistry – we’re a tight-knit group.”