Neuqua Valley senior Zoey Goralski, one of the top high school soccer players in the country, will miss her senior season after suffering a torn ACL in her left knee March 9 while playing for the United States U-20 National Team in Spain.
The 5-foot-3 Goralski, who plays striker for the Wildcats, started at left fullback for the U.S. and played the full 90 minutes as the U.S. tied Norway 1-1 in its first match at the 12 Nations Tournament in La Manga, Spain.
She also got the start against Germany two days later before suffering the injury in a collision with a German player. The injury was unusual because her foot was not planted at the time.
“I was going for a ball and I stretched out my leg and right before I got to it she hit me from behind,” Goralski said. “We were both going for the ball and I cut in front of her at the wrong time, I guess. It was just bad luck.”
The UCLA-bound Goralski, 18, who plays club soccer for Team Chicago, will undergo surgery on April 3 and sit out her first collegiate season next fall. The injury will not affect her scholarship but she will likely redshirt.
“I felt awful for Zoey,” Neuqua Valley coach Joe Moreau said. “Here she is one of the two high school players with the U-20 national team and she’s starting and [the injury happens].”
The injury brings a premature end to an outstanding prep career. Goralski is a two-time NSCAA All-American who scored 39 goals and 26 assists in helping Neuqua Valley to a 59-9-4 record over the past three years, including a 24-1 mark in 2011 in which the Wildcats were ranked No. 1 in the nation before being stunned 1-0 by Naperville North in the sectional final.
While the team has been loaded with talent over that time, the wizardry of the speedy Goralski wowed fans and foes alike and played a huge role in Neuqua’s success. With nearly every key player returning from last year’s 19-3-2 squad, the Wildcats came into this season with high expectations.
“I was so excited to play, too,” Goralski said. “It’s a tough break. This is my senior year and our goal is to at least contend for the state championship and I think we still can.”
Indeed, the Wildcats, who lost to Barrington 2-0 in their season opener on Saturday, still have a formidable lineup that includes eight other Division I recruits in seniors Gianna Dal Pozzo (Miami), Hope D’Addario (Illinois), Shannon Donlon (Bucknell) and Brooke Ksiazek (Illinois State) as well as juniors Olivia Schmitt (Illinois), Talise Romain (Florida), Katie Ciesiulka (Marquette) and Courtney Keefer (Illinois).
“Obviously we’re going to need other players to step up,” Moreau said. “You can’t replace her, but we have good senior leadership.
“Zoey was at practice last week and on the sidelines at the game Saturday. She took it upon herself to act as a coach and help the newer girls with our new formation.”
Despite the injury, Goralski remains in good spirits and intends to help the team in her new role as pseudo-coach.
“I’ve gotten so much support from my teammates and players on other teams it’s been ridiculous,” Goralski said. “I know so many people have torn their ACLs and they’ve told me, ‘if you ever need any help, talk to me.’ It’s amazing.”