Preview: Eureka to Visit Knox For Season Opener

Photo courtesy of Bob Hunt.
Photo courtesy of Bob Hunt.

GALESBURG, Ill. -- The Eureka College women's basketball team will begin its 43rd season in program history Wednesday when the Red Devils visit longtime non-conference rival Knox for a 5:30 p.m. tip-off in Galesburg, Ill.

Eight letterwinners return from Eureka's 20-win team that swept the the SLIAC regular season and tournament championships and went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. Seven of the returnees played in at least 27 games and four started at least 14 contests. 
Hayley Reneau returns after an All-SLIAC First Team campaign in which she averaged 13.8 points per game. Kerrigan Dura will help Reneau anchor the backcourt. An All-SLIAC Third Team selection and the Most Valuable Player of the SLIAC Tournament last season, Dura distributed 140 assists, second-most among SLIAC players in and third-most in a season by a Red Devil in school history.
Juniors Lexi Dooley and Samantha Sarnes also return for EC. Dooley averaged 8.2 points per game, shot 49 percent from the floor and ranked second among SLIAC players with 205 total rebounds. Sarnes played in 27 contests as one of the Red Devils' top reserves. Junior Ellie Broyles also returns and has played in 21 contests over the previous two seasons.
Kennedy Dura highlights a group of three returning sophomores after breaking EC's freshman record with 105 assists last season. Ashley Harfst averaged 5.6 points per game, shot 41 percent from 3-point range in 16 SLIAC appearances. Abigail Hilton provides the Red Devils one of their best interior options after a freshman campaign in which she appeared in all 28 contests.
Junior college transfer Sabrina Clay will bolster the EC frontcourt after a two-year career at NJCAA Carl Sandburg in which she was an NJCAA Division II All-Region IV selection and a two-time All-Arrowhead Conference choice. Freshmen Jessi Benson is a 5-3 guard that helped Tri-City/Sangamon Valley to 24 wins, an MSM Conference crown and an IHSA 2A regional title last winter. Abby Hahn was a three-time All-National Trail Conference pick at Farina South Central and finished her prep career as South Central's all-time leading scorer with 1,423 points.
Wednesday's game marks the EC head coaching debut of Amos Arbogast. The 2006 Iowa graduate was selected as the 12th head coach in program history last summer after spending the previous six seasons as an assistant on the EC men's basketball staff.
Eureka played its lone exhibition game of the  season on Nov. 1, falling short in an 80-54 decision at NCAA Division I Illinois State in Normal, Ill.
Eureka trailed 15-12 after one quarter and 40-29 at halftime. Hayley Reneau and Samantha Sarnes shared the team lead with 16 points apiece. Kennedy Dura reached double figures with 10 points for the visitors, who went 20-for-59 from the field and knocked down 10 3-pointers.
The Red Devils are 18-16 in their last 34 season-opening games since the 1983-84 season. EC has started the season 1-0 in five of the last six seasons.
Knox has become a common season-opening opponent for the Red Devils. Four of Eureka's last six opening-night games have come against the Prairie Fire. EC has won three of those four matchups, including an 86-69 win over the Prairie Fire last season at Christine Bonati Bollwinkle Arena.
A preseason poll conducted by SLIAC head coaches has tabbed Eureka second in the league for the 2017-18 season according, to an Oct. 25 announcement from the SLIAC office. Greenville, last season's league runner-up, was picked to win the conference. The Red Devils were picked second. Webster was voted third. Westminster followed in fourth place. Spalding, Fontbonne, Iowa Wesleyan, MacMurray and Blackburn filled out the final five slots.
Knox will also begin its season Wednesday after putting up a 13-10 overall record and a 10-8 Midwest Conference record last season. The Prairie Fire, which went 12-11 two seasons ago, are in search of three consecutive winning seasons for the first time earning four in a row between the 1987-88 and 1990-91 campaigns.
Kyra Huffman, a sophomore forward from Sacramento, Calif., returns after leading KC with 11.4 points per game last season. She was also the Prairie Fire's top rebounder, hauling down 8.2 boards per game a year ago. Karlie Thorn (10.2), Jarrelyn McCall (9.8), Hailey Leinart (9.7) and Morgan Potter (9.1) are all back for Prairie Fire after averaging at least 9.0 points per game last season. McCall ranked second among KC players with 6.2 rebounds per game.
In all, Knox's top seven scorers from last season have returned for the 2017-18 campaign. KC, which finished two games out of a MWC Tournament spot a year ago, was picked fifth out of 10 teams in a preseason conference poll released on Nov. 9.
Eureka is 27-11 against the Prairie Fire since 1983. Knox has been the Red Devils' most common non-conference opponent over the last three decades. Wednesday's game marks the 20th consecutive season in which the two teams have met on the hardwood.
EC swept a home-and-home series from KC last season, have won six of the last seven over the Prairie Fire since 2011 and three in a row over Knox inside Memorial Gymnasium since 2012.
The Red Devils own a 51-34 combined record against active members of the Midwest Conference since the 1983-84 season. Knox is the most common foe from the league with 38 meetings in that time frame.
Amos Arbogast is in his first season as head coach of the Red Devils. He was selected as the 12th head coach in program history on July 6, 2017. 
Arbogast had previously served the EC men's basketball program as an assistant coach for six seasons and played pivotal role as an assistant for a program that has proved to be an annual contender in the SLIAC. Arbogast helped guide the Red Devils to consecutive berths to the SLIAC Tournament semifinals in 2012 and 2013, including an appearance in the title game in 2013.
Emily Cline will begin her 10th season on the Knox sideline Wednesday.  Cline owns a 77-130 overall record in nine seasons in Galesburg, but has put up a 36-33 mark over the previous three seasons.
A 2001 graduate of Cornell in Mount Vernon, Iowa, Cline was an All-Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference performer in both basketball and softball for the Rams.
Knox will provide a live video broadcast and live statistics at Links to both services will be available at Frequent updates via Twitter will be available at @EurekaGameDay.