Regional title gives Knights kickers a shot at Marquette
Coach Thorne is thinking positive
Oak Creek - To get a chance at doing the impossible, like beating Marquette in sectional play, the Oak Creek boys soccer team first had to do the hard, like trying to win a WIAA regional title.
And behind the stellar goal-keeping of Zach Zelten and a strong midfield, the Knights were able to do just that, as they avenged a regular season loss to West Allis Hale with a 3-2 overtime shootout decision over the Huskies in a soggy regional final tilt on Oct. 11.
"The win didn't come until Zach blocked one of their last shots," said Knights coach Nick Thorne of the harrowing shootout. "It was a lot harder than it probably should have been."
Taking shot at impossible
Oak Creek, which beat Greendale 4-0, in a regional semifinal on Oct. 9 to advance to the final, improved its overall record to 12-4-3 and now will try to do the impossible.
The Knights will advance to a sectional semifinal 5 p.m. Oct. 18 at Quad Park (off Wisconsin Avenue and 38th Street in Milwaukee) to take on defending state champion Marquette, which has a 50-plus game unbeaten streak and which has outscored its two regional opponents by a 20-0 mark.
If, somehow, Oak Creek were able to survive that, they would advance to a sectional final at 1 p.m. Oct. 20, also back at Quad Park against the winner of Bradley Tech and Pius XI for a shot at the WIAA state tournament.
Thorne is looking at things optimistically.
"When we started the season, we knew what kind of team we had," he said, "and we thought we had a good chance at going far. We don't have a lot of outstanding goal scorers, but we do have a bunch of good guys who can really play soccer."
That was needed in the win over Hale on a wet evening. The Huskies struck first, but then the Knights took the lead on goals from Matt Hargreaves (Esai Paez assist) and Bryson Breugger.
But the Huskies tied it up with less than seven minutes to go, forcing overtime and eventually the decisive shootout.
Defense has been stellar
Thorne again praised his defense, noting that the Knights play only a three-man back defense in front of Zelten. Seniors Alex Babic, Brad Ploch and John Nichol work with freshman Acasio Roche and junior Eddie Paez.
"And it has worked well, including the playoffs, we've only given up something like 12 or 13 goals," said Thorne. "What helps is our strength in the midfield. We have five good ones there.
"But it's funny, our toughest games always seem to come on rainy, yucky days."
In the win over Greendale, the Knights made it a little easier on themselves as Dylan Johnson had a hat trick, including one goal in the first half, two in the second. T. J. Schleicher got the other score for Oak Creek as Dakota Slone, and Johnson both had assists as Zelten made four saves.
Thorne is now looking ahead.
"We've played a lot of tough games against good teams, we have a strong midfield, we think we have a chance," he said.
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