EAST PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD/WYZZ) — One is the setter from Roanoke.
The other an outside hitter from Eureka. They are cousins and finally teammates.
“It’s been super fun,” said ICC sophomore Paige Sauder. “Having a whole family dynamic here.”
Sauder and Courtney Heffren are the cousins who are playing on the same volleyball team for the first time. ICC volleyball is a family affair for Sauder and Heffren.
Paige’s mom Jodie is a former ICC player and current assistant coach, Courtney’s mom Tracy is a former ICC player and the current head coach. The cousins grew up in neighboring communities but were never teammates until they came to ICC last season.
Now they play as if they’ve been teammates their whole lives.
“Last season was so different because we’re usually looking across the net from each other,” Courtney Heffren said. “I feel like we have this connection and really pay well together.”
“It’s been awesome, having that bond. It’s weird. We know who’s going to pick up a ball. We rely on each other,” Paige Sauder said. “It’s been fun.”
The teammates say they’re trying to savor every minute of this final season together. They realize that last game together will be an emotional one.
Especially for their moms, who coached them in high school and are now doing it in college.
“It will be emotional,” Tracy Heffren said. “Senior night for Courtney and I was hard as the mom and coach. Two years is not enough here at ICC to have them play for me.”
It’s been a special two years for the Heffren and Sauder families. They hope this last season takes them all the way to nationals.