Streator’s Josie Goerne is the 2024 Times Girls Soccer Player of the Year

Senior sweeper was centerpiece of stingy Bulldogs defense

Streator senior sweeper Josie Goerne is the 2024 Times Girls Soccer Player of the Year.

The sweeper position in soccer isn’t one that generates a lot of statistics or glory.

The goalie gets credit for 99% of the saves, after all, and front-of-the-field players eat up the lion’s share of the glamorous goals and assists.

That doesn’t mean a great, game-changing sweeper can’t stand out on a crowded pitch.

Take, for example, Streator’s Josie Goerne. After her senior season – one in which the Bulldogs went 11-11-3, their second straight .500 season – Goerne was named the Bulldogs’ team MVP, first-team All-Illinois Central Eight Conference, Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association All-Section and, now, the 2024 Times Girls Soccer Player of the Year.

Being the younger sister of 2019 Streator graduate Sam Goerne, a pretty great sweeper for Streator in her own right, Josie seemed destined to excel as the roving last line of defense for the goalie. Even if she didn’t know much about the position during her youth soccer days when Sam was anchoring the Bulldogs’ defense.

“When I played youth, I was a forward,” Josie Goerne said, “and then I got to high school and didn’t have a set position. My sister was a sweeper for four years, and J.T. [Huey, Streator’s head coach] asked me and put me back there, and it just kind of stuck ever since.

“I think it takes a lot more work than people think it does, and that makes me feel good when I do something. I don’t really care how it looks, but I always feel like I’m working pretty hard.

“Being back there has been a learning process, for sure. I’m able to constantly see the whole field. From where I’m at, I can see everything. I think that definitely has helped me to see [how the action is playing out] in advance.”

What, exactly, does a sweeper do though?

“I just clean everything up if anything gets past everyone else. Or try to, at least,” she said with a chuckle.

She’s been pretty good at it.

Streator's Josie Goerne kicks the ball into Morris territory on Monday, March 25, 2024 at the James Street Recreation Area in Streator.

Though she is quick to share credit with her Bulldogs teammates in front of and behind her on the field, Goerne was arguably the key component in Streator holding opponents to two or fewer goals in 14 of its 25 matches this season. That includes seven shutouts, most notably in a 2-0 regional quarterfinal victory over rival Ottawa on the Bulldogs’ new pitch at the James Street Recreation Area.

“Soccer is a nonstop game without pauses and requires 11 athletes to be in sync during every second,” Huey said. “So how I think about the most valuable player on a soccer pitch is more in terms of: What player, if I remove them from the field of play, will most dramatically alter our game?

“For us, that player is Josie.”

Huey added that, while she doesn’t have any eye-popping statistics because of the nature of her position, there isn’t a coach around who wouldn’t put Goerne in their lineup and leave her out there to do her thing all 80 minutes long.

“Josie commands our field,” he said. “If she comes off, the entire dynamic shifts. We can swap certain fullbacks, midfielders and strikers and still build an attack or defend one. But if Josie steps off, we become vulnerable.

“Josie’s ability to read the field, control the ball and direct the team sets her apart. Her leadership, athleticism, soccer intelligence and team mentality are the standards that all athletes should strive to be.”

Goerne plans to attend Illinois Valley Community College to study nutrition and dietetics – and, of course, play soccer for the Eagles – after her four years as the centerpiece of Streator’s defensive half.

“At the beginning of the season, I don’t think we had it nailed down exactly how we wanted, but as the season went on I think it just started clicking with us,” she said. “It varied ... but I thought every game we played pretty solid.

“Something about every game was good.”

Streator's Josie Goerne celebrates with teammate Bridget McGurk during the 2023 season.
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