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Eye on POY: Illinois girls soccer

The window on the Gatorade State Girls Soccer Player of the Year race is closing, and the search for elite student-athletes is in full swing. The award recognizes not only athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. Here are two top candidates who meet the basic award criteria as determined by our ESPNHS team that administers the program’s selection process.

Zoey Goralski

Junior forward/defender, Neuqua Valley (Naperville, Ill.)

2012 Team record: 15-4-2

2012 Team standing: Class 3A regional final vs. Waubonsie Valley on Friday

2012 Goals: 13

2012 Assists: 9

Career goals: 37

Career assists: 26

Academics: A-minus average

Collegiate destination: UCLA (verbal)

How she’s played herself into the State POY conversation: Averaging 1.2 points per game through 20 games this season. U.S. Soccer Under-17 Women’s National Team member 2011 NSCAA All-American. No. 9 ranked recruit in Class of 2013 as rated by ESPNHS.

Courtney Raetzman

Senior forward, Conant (Hoffman Estates, Ill.)

2012 Team record: 17-3

2012 Team standing: Class 3A sectional semifinal vs. Elk Grove on May 23

2012 Goals: 23

2012 Assists: 5

Career goals: 66

Career assists: 28

Academics: A-minus average

Collegiate destination: University of Kentucky

How she’s played herself into the State POY conversation: Averaging 1.5 points per game through 19 games this season. U.S. Soccer Under-18 Women’s National Team member. 2011 NSCAA Youth All-American. No. 62 ranked recruit in Class of 2012 as rated by ESPNHS.

Make no mistake, the Gatorade State Girls Soccer Player of the Year race isn’t over yet. Time remains for one standout student-athlete among thousands to rise to the top of our list. Here are some more of many who’ve been in the conversation throughout the 2011-12 campaign.

Kelli Hubly: Senior forward, Elk Grove (Ill.)

Ginny McGowan: Sophomore midfielder, Lake Forest (Ill.)

Katie Naughton: Senior defender, Elk Grove (Ill.)

Jenna Romano: Junior defender, Waubonsie Valley (Aurora, Ill.)

Crystal Thomas: Senior forward, Wheaton Academy (Chicago, Ill.)

Think we're missing a deserving Gatorade State Player of the Year candidate in your state? Let us know via e-mail at ESPNHS_GPOY@ESPN.com.