When Oak Creek boys' soccer coach Nick Thorne arrived last year, he pointed out the Knights' conference championship banner to inspire his players.
Check that. He pointed out a spot where a banner would be.
"We need to fix this," he told the players.
Fast forward a year later, and the Knights have a real chance to win the first conference title in program history.
The team started out undefeated, running up an 8-0-1 record before dropping its first game Tuesday against Kenosha Bradord. Despite the loss, Oak Creek is just a game back of conference-leading Bradford with seven games still remaining in the season.
The program has traditionally finished in the middle to bottom of the conference, Thorne said. But this year's team brings a solid mix of seniors and newcomers, who have battled through injuries to knock off good teams and stay unbeaten.
"I got lucky. I got a good group of guys I’ve been working with for a little while," Thorne said.
Some of the boxscores haven't told the full story. In one game, for example, they won despite missing both starting strikers, Thorne said. They played without a starting midfielder for two games, and lost another player to a concussion.
Thorne carries 22 players on the roster and expects all of them to contribute.
"Someone always takes a knock and is out 2-3 games," Thorne said. "Everyone on the roster I expect to be able to step in and replace."
While the conference title would be a major accomplishment, Thorne is thinking even bigger.
The coach believes the Knights could make a deep run in the state tournament. They likely would have to beat perennial power Marquette in the sectional final, but anything is possible once the playoffs begin in early October.
"With the team we have, I want to make a good push at state," Thorne said.
"I think we can hang with anyone in the state, honestly."