Eureka College has a first place women’s basketball team.
And each player in the starting five is from central Illinois.
“I think it’s kind of cool because Eureka is local and I think all of us can say that we love being around home,” said junior Hayley Reneau. “We all love out hometowns.”
The Red Devils have meshed together to form a team that is competing for a St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title. Their 75-47 win at Westminster on Monday clinched a berth in the conference tournament.
But the players who start most nights for Eureka knew little about their current teammates when they were playing in separate central Illinois communities as high schoolers.
The sisters from Brimfield (Kerrigan and Kennedy Dura) and the players that call Washington (Reneau), Eureka (Michaela Balducci) and the Twin Cities (Luci Weis) home really never played against each other in prep basketball. Despite all living in the 309 area code.
“I heard about a couple of them in summer league camps but that’s about it,” said Balducci, a senior forward.
“Word was they were pretty good. I was excited to play with them now.”
The Dura sisters had the benefit of being teammates at Brimfield High School, one of the smaller schools in central Illinois. But the never really saw their college teammates in high school competition.
“Without seeing them, I knew about Hayley and I had heard about Michaela,” Kerrigan Dura explained. “I knew Michaela was super-athletic even when we were younger.”
Weis played at the biggest high school among the starting five, Normal Community.
“Once I started playing with the Dura girls and Michaela, having Hayley come in this year has helped us,” Weis said.
The local girls have helped Eureka become one big happy central Illinois family. And they’ve helped Eureka (15-6, 11-1) to its best start since the 2011-12 season.
“These small town schools around this area have some really talented players,” said Balducci.” I think
this is showing everybody that it’s OK to go Division III and help us all come together.”