Frankfort captures sectional championship; both county teams head to regionals

Chapin Jewell
Mineral Daily News-Tribune
The Frankfort Lady Falcons celebrate their sectional championship victory over Keyser on Wednesday.

KEYSER - On Wednesday night, in front of packed house at Keyser that included large and raucous cheering sections for both, the Frankfort Lady Falcons defeated the Keyser Lady Tornado three sets to one to claim the sectional volleyball championship.

Frankfort had to come from behind to do so. Keyser opened the first set red-hot with a 25-17 victory. That eight-point spread would be the biggest margin of any of the four sets played. Frankfort was not deterred, bouncing back in Set 2 with a 25-21 victory to even things up.

Game 3 was epic. The two Mineral County squads battled back and forth, and with volleyball’s “you must win the set by two points” rule, the Falcons and Tornado combined for 56 total points in Frankfort’s 29-27 victory. That gave the visitors from Short Gap a 2-1 lead.

Frankfort had the lead and the momentum at that point but Keyser fought hard. In the end, however, the Falcons would win Set 4 by 25-20 to claim the 3-1 victory and the sectional championship trophy.

The Frankfort response

Frankfort not only won the match 3-1 and the season series 2-1, but in doing so, earned the sectional championship, all this over their in-county rival.

“Any time we play Keyser it’s a toss-up because they have a heck of a volleyball program and team. Honestly, our girls just wanted it really, really bad and they fought when they were down and dug themselves out of some holes. I’m really proud of them,” Frankfort coach Brooke Alkire-Higson explained.

Keyser won the first matchup in Keyser 3-0. Frankfort won the second matchup in Short Gap 3-0. The Falcons then won the deciding, post-season match 3-1.

“We are matched up very closely. The difference tonight is that our girls just got our energy up, and usually when you get that energy rolling, it’s hard to be beat because it is intimidating to the other team. Honestly, this could have went either way, and I’m proud of both teams, we represent Mineral County very well,” Alkire-Higson stated.

Keyser had a large home crowd assembled. Frankfort countered by bringing a large contingent of fans with them. The support for both schools was large and loud.

According to Alkire-Higson, “It’s always nice when we have the stands packed with people that are supporting us. As we learned last year, it wasn’t much fun to play in front of minimal people. It’s also just nice from a coach’s perspective to hear kids in the stands chanting for kids on the court, because these kids have had a rough couple of years.

What’s next for Frankfort? The regional championships.

“We will play Weir and Keyser will play Oak Glen. Oak Glen is the No. 1 seed in that section and Weir is the No. 2 seed. We know that they are scrappy, and we are going to prepare to beat them next to go two states. Either one of us has to win the first match to go to states. You win the first match and you qualify for states. The second match simply determines seeding for when you get there,” Alkire-Higson explained.

Final thoughts?

“We’ve had a rough year, we’ve only won 12 games. Honest to goodness, beating Grafton in the first round of sectionals was like reaching that mountaintop. I just feel like with that win we peaked at the right time, and who knows what we can do. These kids are unstoppable,” Alkire-Higson opined.

The Keyser response

Despite losing the match, Keyser battled hard, opening with that first set victory and then competing tremendously in the next three sets lost.

“I think in game three and four we started to play a little safe. I’ve always told them that safe will not win the game. The sets were a little further off the net which comes from the passes being a little further from the 10-foot line. So, offensively we weren’t as strong as we were in Game 1 and Game 2. I think we just started second-guessing ourselves and hesitating,” Keyser coach Kara Breedlove stated.

As mentioned, Keyser won the first matchup between the two 3-0 at home. Frankfort won the second matchup in Short Gap 3-0. Frankfort then won the third matchup in a tightly contested match.

“I feel like our team has been strong from the beginning and they know they can win. I think it just comes to when the pressure comes down that this one gets us this, and that one gets us that, we don’t always capitalize on the win when the pressure is there. The difference between Frankfort and us tonight, I think they’re very strong, they pick up a lot of stuff. They say defense wins championships and it made a difference for them tonight,” Breedlove stated.

The large and raucous crowd, complete with all the enthusiasm, was greatly appreciated.

According to Breedlove, “I’ve seen volleyball alumni come in tonight. It’s great to see all the support in the stands. Last year we didn’t have spectators, so it’s a really big difference. We love to have the crowd here.”

What’s next for Keyser? The regional championships.

“We get a trip to Oak Glen. This is the first trip Keyser has made to regionals. There is a first time for everything. Oak Glen hasn’t seen us, we haven’t seen Oak Glen. I told the girls, you never count us out until the game is over,” Breedlove opined.

Final thoughts?

According to Breedlove, “Tonight, in Game 3, we lost 29-27, I’ve never had a game go to 29-27 before. I think if that game would have went a little different, the night would have went a lot different. We started playing conservatively after that game.

How Frankfort and Keyser got here.”

Any discussion of Wednesday’s sectional championship matchup between Frankfort and Keyser needs to include the fact that it was a game that might not have happened. In fact, based on the way the sectional seeding shook out, Keyser and Frankfort were the two low seeds of the four-team field.

Grafton was seeded first and hosted fourth seeded Frankfort. Berkeley Springs was seeded second and hosted third seeded Keyser. Both Mineral County teams, however, prevailed over their higher seeded opponent.

For Frankfort, that meant coming from behind down 2-0. The Lady Bearcats won the first set 25-20 and 25-22. But Frankfort responded, and in a big way, winning Set 3 by 25-15, Set 4 by 25-12, and Set 5 by 15-9. With the win, the Falcons advanced to the sectional championship game at Keyser.

For Keyser, that meant besting a Berkeley Springs squad that had defeated them in Berkeley Springs earlier in the season, yet again at Berkeley Springs. The Lady Tornado set the tone early, winning both sets one and two by a tally of 25-20. The Lady Indians claimed Set 3 by 25-9, but Keyser responded with the deciding and close 25-23 victory in Set 4. And they did it all in front of large and raucous home crowd at Berkeley Springs.

The after effect

The nice thing about the Frankfort/Keyser battle is that while a sectional championship was at stake, it was not an elimination game. While certainly seeding for the regional round was decided, and that’s significant, both teams now advance this Saturday for a shot to qualify for the state tournament.

Also significant is the fact that the crowd size and intensity of the matchup between the two Mineral County schools was vintage Frankfort/Keyser. Not since the now famous sectional basketball matchup of 2020, the last hoorah before things got shut down, have so many Falcon and Tornado fans been assembled together and with such energy. There was a sense from many that while COVID still exists, from a sports perspective, we may have come through the other side.