Heather Schild successfully guided the Naperville North Badminton team through the COVID-19 pandemic all the way to a state title in 2021.
Recap of the State Meet
Exciting times – it’s the first in-person state meet of the school year – badminton holding its ultimate competition at Hinsdale South. Singles competition on day one and doubles on day two. Naperville North, Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley all represented in the singles quarterfinals.
Manoharan drops to the state badminton consolation bracket – which is where Naperville North’s Shannon Xu already is – and she’s scratching names off her list to the delight of Coach Heather Schild, including Stevenson’s Ema Akutsu.
But first up a matchup between the Wildcat Salem and the Huskie Xu. And this… this is going to be goooood.
These two pretty familiar with each other – Salem going with the drop shot, which doesn’t work at first… but she gives it another go and claims the point.
Later in the first set, Xu not only works to earn the point but let’s out a rally cry – taking the first set 21-14.
Although Salem would win the second set 21-17, Xu bounces back in the third, showing off incredible athleticism like this… winning in three sets. A big half point for the Huskies, but Xu would bow out to Kathryn Chappel from St. Charles East in the next round.
Back to the championship bracket with another Naperville North star – Bhaavya Manikonda, taking on Maggie Chen in the semi-finals. And it’s the Hornet taking the early point here.
Still in the first set, Manikonda showing why she’s the top overall seed in the tournament – demonstrating a bevy of shots and then tucking the birdie in the back corner for the point.
After claiming the first by a 21-17 tally, Manikonda up to her old tricks… forcing Chen to cover a ton of ground, and then smashing home the point. On to the championship game she goes.
Last but not least… actually, the most important matchup of the entire tournament – it’s the championship bout between North’s Bhaavya Manikonda and Urbana’s Andrea Li. And it’s the Huskie off to a strong start
Late stages of the first set and this is one of the sequences that kind of makes you nod… you know, like… yeah, these are the two best high school badminton players Illinois has to offer. And this time around it’s Li taking the point after both athletes empty their tool belt.
Now with a chance to secure a 1-0 set lead, Manikonda uses a pretty drop shot to catch Li off guard – and wins it 21-14
Second set… bit of a different story. The Urbana player seizing control and battling to hang in there with the top overall seed. In the end, Li has enough in the tank to win the second set 22-20… and so we go to a third.
From there, Manikonda recaptures momentum, swinging it emphatically in her favor – the wide array of shots overwhelms her counterpoint – putting her on the verge of the state title.
And the Huskie doesn’t let it slip out of her grasp. In the most bizarre badminton season in the history of the state series, the Naperville North Huskie – Bhaavya Manikonda wins state for the second time – earning the title with scores of 21-14, 20-22, and 21-10. Another successful trip to the meet for Heather Schild and the Huskies.
For more prep sports highlights, visit the Naperville Sports Weekly page.