Eureka High School Sports Feature

Tom Batters
Michaela Balducci

The Eureka High School girls basketball team played Midwest Central (the team that ended the Hornets’ 2010-11 season in a heartbreaking overtime game in the IVC Regional) in a summer league game at Eastside Centre last week.

The atmosphere was much different.

Only a handful of fans were there to watch the summer game, and there really wasn’t anything on the line, since no team records are kept in the summer league anyway.

But one thing was the same.

Eureka sophomore Michaela Balducci (she’ll be a junior in the fall) was all over the court — diving for a loose ball here, hitting a three point shot there...)

Balducci emerged as a pleasant surprise for coach Adam Zehr last year. Even though she was only a sophomore, she was the Hornets’ second leading scorer (behind Kalla Gold) and one of the top defenders, especially when Eureka employed its air-tight full court press.

“I was a little surprised (that I was able to play so well last year),” she said. “I played AAU basketball, so I felt like I improved from my freshman year, but I wasn’t expecting to do so well.”

She started playing basketball in second grade, and she calls it her best sport, but she’s not all bad at the other two — volleyball and track — either.

She was one of the top hitters on the volleyball team and one of the top throwers (shot put and discus) on the track and field team in the spring.

She didn’t even start playing volleyball or throwing the shot and discus until seventh grade.

“I went to one volleyball camp in sixth grade, and I liked it, so I started paying the next year,” she said. “With track, I thought, ‘I guess I’m pretty strong. I’ll try it (shot put and discus).’ I was scared at first, because I thought it was more of a boys’ sport, but now I’m starting to like it.”

She doesn’t get much of a break from sports. The rest of the summer will be spent at basketball league games, tournaments, volleyball camps, open gyms and other athletic endeavors.

Volleyball starts in the fall, but she said she is already focused on basketball, too —and gaining redemption from that loss to MW Central last year (the Hornets were the No. 1 seed and favored to win the Regional).

“We all think about it a lot,” she said. “But, we’re such a close team, and just about everybody will be back. So, we’re all looking forward to the season.”