Fall 2020 Preview: Frankfort volleyball looking to build on success
By Chapin Jewell
SHORT GAP - A season ago, Frankfort competed an exceptional season, going 25-8-6 against a very challenging schedule. The Falcons fell to eventual state champion Oak Glen at Regionals.
Gone are eight seniors who contributed to Frankfort’s success. But for Frankfort head volleyball coach Brooke Alkire-Higson, there’s every reason to expect the 2020 version of Frankfort volleyball can build on the successes of the past.
“We want to win a state championship. That’s the goal every year, all day, every day. They can do it. These kids, they never cease to amaze me. Maybe we don’t have any 6’0” hitters on our varsity squad right now, but these kids play much bigger than they are,” Alkire-Higson stated.
“That’s what’s great about these kids, they just take every challenge they have and work as hard as they can to tackle it.”
According to Alkire-Higson, “I think it’s the Falcon mentality. Our kids are just great kids all around. They all have jobs, they all have great GPA’s, and they all work hard on the court. Any job or task that’s put in front of them, they don’t stop until they’ve met their goal. Any challenge you give them, they want to prove the world wrong.
“I feel like they probably came into this year thinking the odds are probably against us because they saw we lost eight seniors. But, the reality is, we played against those eight seniors and that made us better every day,” Alkire-Higson explained.
There’s no doubt the bulk of significant contributors from last season were lost to graduation. Nonetheless, there are returners with varsity experience, this same group having the benefit of battling against last year’s seniors day in and day out in practice. There is young talent as well. Alkire-Higson’s biggest challenge right now is figuring how to “put her aces in their places.”
“I have four seniors this year, and all four of them were on varsity last year and are phenomenal athletes. Anna Shaffer is going to be a dominate middle-header. Nia Smith and Jaden Rapson are our outside hitters, and they do phenomenally well, as well as on the defensive side of things,” Alkire-Higson stated. “Ann Ford, she is multi-talented. She can play defense, she can hit well, and she also has set before. So, these kids are very well-rounded.
According to Alkire-Higson, “My biggest goal right now is to put them in their spots that would make us the most competitive.”
“I also have young talent for sure. Jaci Rowe and Payton Mandell are both sophomores, they’re going to see some significant varsity time this year. My juniors include Jaclyn Yoder who is back from an injury and it doesn’t look like she was out a full season because she’s been training so hard,” Alkire-Higson explains. “Add to that Mercedes Shook, Jaci Smith, Madison Middleton, we’re just extremely well-rounded and defensively is where we’re going to really stand out. These kids are quick and they’re hustlers.”
One thing that’s different this year from years past is the absence of local Maryland schools in Allegany and Garrett counties, due to Maryland postponing fall sports. Gone are some of those familiar local teams. Despite the change in the schedule make-up, Alkire-Higson is excited and pleased with what she sees.
“Honestly, I’m not upset or concerned about the schedule in any way, shape or form. We’re excited to play some big games,”Alkire-Higson stated.
“We’re playing at an Oak Glen quad right off the bat, we’re scrimmaging Hedgesville this week. What better way to start out than a AAA school like Hedgesville? I think we’re playing great competition and it’s going to push us to be the best that we can be.”
The schedule is a bit different, so too is the planning, practicing and playing volleyball with COVID-19 restrictions, but all are doing their part and adapting as needed.
“Well, I just feel like we’re a lot further behind than normal time-wise. We didn’t get any time in the weight room like normal or the outside conditioning that we typically do. But, the good news is these kids have been working outside of the school and doing stuff on their own, staying conditioned and in shape. That has helped tremendously.”
Frankfort has a great tradition of volleyball success, dating back many years. One successful class has traditionally given way to the next. It’s the reason expectations are high again in 2020 in Short Gap.