Riverside-Brookfield High School senior badminton players Alyssa Krivak (left) and Claire Shanahan hope to qualify for their first state meet. (Bill Stone/Contributor)

Riverside-Brookfield High School senior Claire Shanahan has the perfect sports setup in her backyard.

During the summer of 2019, she and fellow senior Alyssa Krivak used the makeshift court for some extreme badminton.

“In one week we played like 30 hours with one bird,” Krivak said. “The bird was all shredded to pieces because we wanted to see how long we could play with that bird.”

After years as friends and players, the seniors will try to share another memorable badminton moment — qualifying for their first state meets after missing by one sectional victory as a doubles team in 2021. 

The Bulldogs will compete at the Carl Sandburg Sectional this week, where top-four finishers advance to the IHSA state championships. Shanahan and Krivak are the team’s two singles entries. Seniors Alice Sylvie and Claire Harrison and senior Zona Evans and sophomore Katie DeJesus will play doubles.

“I’m very motivated,” Shanahan said. “I’ve been playing since I was 7. Just playing in my backyard was very competitive. Playing here, I really want to get at it and go to state.”

“We’ve put in so much work at practices and games and we were so close last year. This year we’re so motivated to put in everything for it,” Krivak said. 

This is their third full varsity season. Barely into their initial 2020 varsity season, the COVID-19 pandemic ended all spring sports. 

During the regular season, Shanahan was primarily playing No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles with Sylvie. Krivak was at No. 2 singles and No. 2 doubles with Harrison.

At the 2021 sectional, Shanahan and Krivak won two of their first three doubles matches, the first victory after losing the first set. They lost the state-determining match 21-11, 21-10.

“I still reflect on it, but it’s in the past and it just motivates us to move forward,” Krivak said. 

Shanahan’s backyard fuels her competitive desire. Besides having enough room to create the badminton court, there’s a fence the perfect height to serve as net. 

Shanahan and Krivak have played every summer since seventh grade. Shanahan also plays family members, mostly her father.

“Every single summer, we’d just play and play and he could never beat me,” Shanahan said. “He won once and I got so mad. Then I was like, ‘OK, no one’s ever winning again.’ ”

At RBHS, the seniors began on the freshman level. Shanahan was elated simply being able to practice with the varsity.

Midway through the 2019 season, Shanahan was promoted to junior varsity to play No. 3 singles for an invitational. 

She took first place. Krivak also got the JV call and was third at No. 2 doubles with Sylvie.

“I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh. I don’t just get to practice with the varsity,’” Shanahan said. “Playing with everyone on the team is a great thing to do and connect with everyone in the program.”