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After the Oak Creek boys soccer team established its credentials earlier this fall with its upset of defending D2 state champion Whitefish Bay, the Knights had to figure out how to handle their newfound fame.

And it wasn't easy at times.

"After Bay, we had quite a few injuries happen in quick succession, and we had to battle through them," said coach Martin Castro. "So we decided to put the focus on (Southeast) conference. Try to nurse the kids through, limit the time of the hurt ones in nonconference games and play the entire bench in other games.

"Conference got first priority."

That strategy resulted in a few ugly losses in midseason but paid off grandly the past few weeks, as the Knights turned in one critical league win after another against Racine Horlick (2-1), Racine Case (2-0), Kenosha Bradford (6-0) and, finally, the league title-clinching, 2-0 victory over Kenosha Indian Trail (2-0) on Oct. 11.

With that win, Oak Creek finished off league play with a perfect 7-0 mark and its first Southeast title since 2013.

"We knew we were in a good spot going into the Indian Trail game," Castro said, "but we wanted to win conference with an undefeated record. We wanted to win it cleanly."

And when they did, they celebrated.

"Oh yes, there was a lot of celebration," Castro said. "In fact, I was in the middle of texting our athletic director (Scott Holler) about it when the kids pulled up and dumped me with water."

The Knights, who followed that win with a 3-0 nonconference victory over Mukwonago on Oct. 13 and a 3-1 loss to Racine St. Catherine's on Oct. 15 (a game in which Castro emptied the bench in the second half), entered this week at 11-5-1 overall.

They earned the second seed in the WIAA D1 Kenosha Bradford sectional and will host Milwaukee Ronald Reagan in a regional semifinal at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20. If they win that game, they'll host the winner of Racine Park and Milwaukee Hamilton in a regional final Saturday, Oct. 22.

The sectional semifinal is Thursday, Oct. 27, with Muskego being the three seed. The sectional final will be at 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29, at Bradford. Multi-time state champion Marquette is the sectional top seed.

Castro said the team is ready for a long run.

"Very much so," he said. "They're a wonderful group to work with, and we have only three or four seniors starters, so we'll have a strong nucleus to work with next year. We'll get the guys some good game experience in the early on and then see what we can do in the big games."

Which has been a great deal in recent weeks.

In the Indian Trail game, Kevin Rebollo and Alejandro Muro got the goals for the Knights.

The team has been well-balanced this fall, Castro said, built around co-captains junior keeper Peter Villafuerte, Ty Stulo, David Cox and Nikola Kesich. A key player this fall has been defender Roman Waszak.

"Just a very solid, consistent player," Castro said.

The defense was key in winning the league title, he added, as the Knights gave up only three goals in seven contests. The rout of Bradford was especially important, as it was a huge emotional lift after the Knights lost to the Red Devils in 2015.

"We would have won or tied for conference had we won that game," said Castro, noting that the season is ending on a far more positive note this fall.

"It's been a lot of fun," he said.

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