Although the Riverside-Brookfield High School badminton team didn’t produce any state qualifiers, head coach Tom Rocco lauded the Bulldogs’ attitude in the stacked Hinsdale South Sectional last week.

“I couldn’t have been prouder how they battled in the toughest sectional in the state,” Rocco said. “While we were leaving, I received a nice compliment from Coach Charters of Hinsdale South about how well our singles players competed in the sectional.”   

RBHS finished fifth out of six teams at Hinsdale South as the host Hornets finished first with 15.5 points. Metea Valley (11.5), Willowbrook (9), West Aurora (4), RBHS (2.5) and Argo (0) rounded out the field.

RBHS senior Alex Bakalich fell one match short of competing in the third-place match with a chance to go downstate. Bakalich finished 1-2 at the sectional highlighted by a 21-12, 21-17 upset win over a West Aurora player. During the regular season, she won the No. 1 singles title at the RB Invite, made the quarterfinals at the DeKalb Invite and placed fourth at the Independent Conference meet.

Teammate Erika Sterner went 0-2 at the sectional but performed well against Willowbrook and Hinsdale South. During the regular season in invitational competition, Sterner finished first at Leyden and RB, second at Glenbard East and the Independent Conference meet and third at Glenbard South. She also came in sixth out of 24 players at the DeKalb Invite.

In sectional doubles, the RBHS teams of Katie Buckley/Miranda Molina and Claire Bartolone /Lauren Paisker each recorded opening round wins of Argo before losing its next two matches.

“Unfortunately, Erika Sterner had an extremely tough draw facing Willowbrook in her first match and Hinsdale South in her second match.” Rocco said. “Those are two perennial area powers that traditionally send their girls’ downstate. We did better than last year as were able to walk away from the sectional with two doubles victories over Argo and Bakalich’s upset win against West Aurora.”

The Bulldogs finished 7-5 in dual matches and claimed championships at the Leyden Invite as well their own home tournament. RBHS also placed third in the Independent Conference and fourth at the DeKalb Invite.

“I thought we had an excellent regular season with taking first place at Leyden and RB,” Rocco said. “Our third-place finish at the Independent Conference was a good finish to the season as well. Although some of our scores versus the bigger schools were a little lopsided, we were competitive in all our matches and continued to improve to the point where we were playing our best badminton at the end of the season.”

Even more encouraging, numbers are up in terms of players representing RBHS.

“The program continues to grow,” Rocco said. “We had 46 girls between our freshman, junior varsity and varsity level, which is the highest total since I took as head coach four years ago. So all in all, things are looking good as we move forward.”

Rocco praised the contributions of seniors Bakalich, Sterner, Molina, Buckley, Bartolone, Mary Penckofer, Johanna Oscarson, Michelle Morris, Libby Creek and manager Jillian Podborny to the program.

Varsity players Lauren Paisker and Maggie Shereck will lead the Bulldogs next season along with other returners in Carolyn Bartolone, Natalia Jandura and Joseline Jimenez.