As a member of last year’s senior-heavy varsity badminton lineup, Riverside-Brookfield junior Maggie Shereck had an idea of what was coming for her in 2016.
“I watched the No. 1s play last year and I remember thinking, ‘Oh boy,’ ” Shereck said.
There are several new roles for the Bulldogs – and a new staff with head coach Susan Brenner and assistant Lanette Niemann. RBHS graduated five of six players from its 2015 sectional lineup and injured senior Lauren Paisker is not expected to compete.
Seniors Dalissa Escamilla, Joseline Jimenez, Andrejana Misic and Niko Radicanin and junior Carolyn Bartolone also saw varsity action in 2015. Varsity newcomers are senior Stephanie Nash, juniors Athena Haralambous, Madi Hornung and Molly Roman and sophomores Vasara Kulbis, Natalie Lisle and Stephanie Johnson, promoted for varsity invites.
Brenner coached RBHS freshman boys volleyball in 2015. She was an assistant badminton coach from 2010-12 at defending state champion Neuqua Valley.
RBHS has not had a state qualifier since 2010.
“I have my own personal goal, which is to get at least one state qualifier,” Brenner said.
“We definitely practice like we want to play. Practices are pretty intense. I really try to instill that never-give-up philosophy. Coming into a different program they’ve taught me a lot as I hope I’ve taught them so we’re growing together.”
On Saturday, the Bulldogs finished fourth at their five-team invitational.
Hornung and Escamilla (No. 2 doubles) were first, Bartolone and Kulbis (No. 1 doubles) and Misic and Radicanin (No. 3 doubles) were second and Johnson (No. 4 singles) was third. They are 3-2 in duals and were fourth at the Leyden Invite and eighth at the Glenbard East Invite.
Co-captains Shereck and Bartolone are trying to promote a cohesive and determined spirit. The Bulldogs have 42 players and many are freshmen.
“(Our goal is) just encouraging each other because so many other sports are too competitive,” Bartolone said. “I feel like we’re all just really friendly to each other here.”
After playing primarily at No. 4 singles and doubles in 2015, Shereck is now at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles for duals with Jimenez.
“Now I’m playing girls who qualified for state so it’s a very different approach,” Shereck said. “It’s kind of intimidating but once you start the game, it’s totally different. You’re able to kind of see their weaknesses so you can kind of build off of that.”
Last season, Bartolone finally could beat older sister Claire, Paisker’s sectional doubles partner in 2015. Bartolone now is at No. 2 singles and No. 2 doubles with Kulbis, 4-1 in duals at No. 8-10 singles.
“It’s kind of big shoes to fill,” Bartolone said. “It’s weird being No. 8 (last season) and then No. 2. The girls just get so good. But yeah it’s been fun to far.”
Brenner was a two-time state doubles qualifier for Glenbard North in 2006-07. Niemann was a two-time state singles qualifier for Hinsdale South.
“(Brenner has) worked a lot on strategy,” Shereck said. “I think when (people) hear you’re on a badminton team they think one thing and when they see you play they’re like, ‘Whoa. This is real.’ I think she really loves that aspect of it. We really have fun with it.”