The goals came a little harder, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm after Cheney earned another district soccer title Thursday afternoon.
Actually, Blackhawks coach Mark Kiver was plenty damp from an ice-water bath that punctuated the Blackhawks’ gritty 2-0 win over Pullman for the District 7 2A title – familiar territory for the defending state champions.
“When we get to this point, everyone’s going to be tough,” Kiver said as he toweled himself off while his players raised the district championship trophy in front of an enthusiastic home crowd.
Next up: a first-round regional match on Tuesday or Wednesday against a team from the Central Washington Athletic Conference. To prepare for that, the Blackhawks (14-1-1) got a stern test from Pullman, which lost to Cheney 6-1 last week but stayed in this one until Ian Schimandle’s breakaway goal in the 79th minute.
Until then, the top-ranked Blackhawks dominated possession but clung to a 1-0 lead that was fashioned in the 24th minute when senior midfielder Trevan Estrellado collected the ball in traffic and found freshman reserver Noah Prophet on the right wing.
Prophet did the rest, striking the ball past Pullman goalkeeper Will Pitzer.
“I saw Noah cutting toward the far post, and that was a great finish,” Estrellado said. “That’s great, because it goes to show that in games likes this, it doesn’t come down to big stars, it’s who has the most heart.”
But the Greyhounds – 14-4, with three of their losses coming to Cheney – showed plenty of heart at the defensive end. Several promising chances were snuffed out at the last instant.
“I have tons of respect for Pullman,” Kiver said. “That’s what good teams do – they make adjustments.”
The good news for 10th-ranked Pullman: it also advances to regionals, but will hit the road next week against a CWAC opponent.
Trailing 1-0 in the second half, Pullman managed several good chances. Cheney keeper Kam Galm made a strong save in the 56th minute. Three minutes later, it was Pitzer’s turn to save a goal, pushing a shot over the crossbar.
Pullman finally put the ball in the net in the 74th minute, but fouled Galm in the process. Finally, as the Greyhounds pushed everyone forward, Schimandle took a long pass down the left sideline, outraced a single defender and shot past Pitzer to clinch the match.
Five minutes later, Schimandle hefted the water cooler and the celebration began.