SHORT GAP - At every high school and in every sport, there comes along, on occasion, that rare, special class that seems to set themselves apart from all the others. Special players come and go with more regularity; seemingly there are one or two of those just about every year.

By Chapin Jewell
Tribune Managing Editor
SHORT GAP - At every high school and in every sport, there comes along, on occasion, that rare, special class that seems to set themselves apart from all the others. Special players come and go with more regularity; seemingly there are one or two of those just about every year.  
A special class, however, a mass collection of talent on and off the court or playing field, seems to be more of a once in a generation sort of thing.
Frankfort volleyball coach Brooke Alkire-Higson believes her current crop of seniors, the “Divine Nine” as she calls them, just may be that special class who are poised to make their mark and take things to the next level for the Falcons.  
Kylee McGuire, Macie Miller, Taylor Vanmeter, Reagan Bennett, Chloe Puffinburger, Makenna Douthitt, Emily Horn, Ashley Phillips and Jenna Ujcic - remember those names.  
“‘The Divine Nine,’ there’s so much to say about them,” Alkire-Higson says. “They are one of the hardest working groups for sure. All nine have a 4.0 grade point average or higher, five of the nine play at least two sports, but some play three. The ones that don’t play another school sport play travel ball in the offseason. They are a very close-knit group that stands out in the community for all their talents and hard work.”
According to Alkire-Higson, “The majority of them work, they maintain excellent grades, and of course work very hard on and off the court and field.  As competitive, strict and disciplined as they are when it comes to sports, these nine have the sweetest hearts; they are just all-around great kids.”
While the group has already made their mark on the courts, fields, and classrooms at Frankfort High School, they’ve also worked hard to better their community through volunteer work.  
“They participated in our ‘Make the World a better place’ mission in December, volunteered for Toys for Happiness, and adopted a family from Fort Ashby Primary School to bless on Christmas morning,” Alkire-Higson explains.
As their first game approaches, the nine seniors, along with juniors Jaden Rapson, Nia Smith, Ann Ford and Anna Shaffer, look to build on, even surpass the success of last season.  
“We had a good season last year, finishing 29-10-1. We were undefeated in the AMAC and PVC, and ended as the sectional champions. This year, we want to win a state championship, that’s our goal. We will fight through whatever obstacles we face to reach our goal,” Alkire-Higson explained.
In striving to reach that goal of a state championship, the Falcons will rely heavily on the talent-laded crop of returning senior players.  
“Macie Miller, Taylor Vanmeter and Reagan Bennett are all three very strong middle hitters and dominate the net when blocking. Chloe Puffinburger, Makenna Douthitt and Macie Miller all have years of experience setting and have beautiful hands but hit good as well. Emily Horn, Kylee McGuire and Ashley Phillips are strong outside hitters. Defensively, Jenna Ujcic and Ashley Phillips are phenomenal,” Alkire-Higson details.  
According to Alkire-Higson, “The truth is, they are all very well rounded and can hit from any spot. Defensively, we should stand out.”
In addition to a regular slate of local opponents, the Falcons will challenge themselves with road trips to tournaments across the Mountain State. This gives Frankfort an opportunity to play against many of the state’s best teams.  There are trips to tournaments at Philip Barbour, Cabell Midland, Parkersburg and Hedgesville on the Falcons’ 2019 schedule.
Alkire-Higson, the head coach and a 2002 graduate of Frankfort High School, is in her fifth year of coaching, third as the head coach. She is married to Eric Higson, and is the mother of a young son, Boedy. Alkire-Higson is employed by CareVentures, Inc. as a regional recruiter.
She jokes with the girls all the time, reminding her team that most of them were born during her senior year of high school.  
“When you coach great kids, they push you to be a better person and coach. I love these girls and I am excited to see what 2019 has in store for the Lady Falcons. Mostly, I am really just looking forward to our season and watching the girls do what they love,” Alkire-Higson stated.   
The Lady Falcons will begin play on Sept. 4 with a home tri-match against Keyser and Hampshire. In and around Short Gap, the hope is that match will be the spark that ignites Frankfort to a successful season, one capped off with a state championship win.
If the Falcons reach that goal of a state championship, no doubt it will largely be on the backs of this talented group of nine returning senior starters, the group dubbed the ‘Divine Nine” by Coach Brooke Alkire-Higson.
With their high grade point averages, service to the community, and proven track record of success on and off the court, this group has already proven themselves to be winners.  Big things are ahead for Frankfort Volleyball this season, just how big will be played out on the court.