Mackenzie Gillispie and Taylor Kennedy are 2019 graduates of Ripley High School who have gone on to play soccer at Fairmont State University. As freshman, the girls are breaking records and setting the standards high.
Gillispie is the 18-year-old daughter of Michael and Michelle Gillispie of Ripley. She has been playing soccer for 13 years and was a four-year standout at Ripley High as a midfielder.
Gillispie was named first team All-State and earned Midfielder of the Year honors in West Virginia Class AAA as a senior. She was also awarded first team All-Conference and All-Region honors following both her junior and senior years.
Gillispie’s other honors include the Golden Boot Award, which she earned three times during her career at Ripley High School.
Besides helping lead the Vikings to an 18-2 record and conference championship in 2017, she participated in the West Virginia Olympic Developmental Program from 2013-2017.
Kennedy is the 18-year-old daughter of John Kennedy and Jenny Greathouse of Ripley. She has been playing soccer for 14 years and was a standout at Ripley High School as a goalkeeper.
In 2015, as a freshman at Ripley, Kennedy earned the honor of being selected as West Virginia Goalkeeper of the Year and was also named team MVP.
Kennedy earned first team All-Conference and All-Region honors two times during her high school career, and allowed just seven goals during her junior year. She also had a 91 percent save percentage at the goal as a junior.
During Kennedy’s senior year at Ripley she only allowed 12 goals and recorded an 89 percent save percentage.
As well as soccer, Kennedy was a a one-year member of the track team and three-year member of the girls basketball team at Ripley High, where she earned the title of MVP during the 2018-2019 basketball season.
Gillispie and Kennedy both received four-year scholarships to play soccer at Fairmont State University, and the Fighting Falcons head coach Brandon Heembrock couldn’t be happier with the selection.
“Mackenzie is currently our leading goal scorer. She leads the team in shots on goal and shots taken,” Heembrock said. “Taylor is first in conference in shutouts, first in conference in save percentage, second in the conference in goals against average, fifth in the country in shutouts, seventeenth in the country in goals against average, and there is only one other freshman in the entire country that has allowed less goals than Taylor.”
Heembrock added that each girl has earned player of the week, Gillispie as an offensive player and Kennedy for defensive player.
He feels that Gillispie and Kennedy have brought their Ripley camaraderie to Fairmont with them.
“Their personalities mesh well, not with just each other, but with the team,” Heembrock said. “It’s not so much all of the time recruiting the soccer side of it, it’s recruiting the personality as well.”
The Fighting Falcons recently clinched their first North Division title in the programs five-year history. Heembrock credits both Gillispie and Kennedy with being a big part of making that happen. He feels the girls have made it easier for the entire team to mesh well together due to their personalities.
They said they have enjoyed playing their first season of college soccer as Fighting Falcons, noting there are a few differences between playing a sport in high school versus college.
“The level of play is a completely different speed,” Gillispie said. “The atmosphere is a lot different.”
“Everybody takes it a little more serious at college,” Kennedy said. “It’s definitely the hardest thing I have ever done, to play a college sport and try to balance school.”
Both girls are up for the challenge and feel their teammates help and encourage them to succeed.
“You have 23 built in best friends at all times, and everyone is there for each other,” Gillispie said. “Our coaches have our backs no matter what. It’s just an awesome experience overall.”
Both Gillispie and Kennedy were recently named to the Mountain East All Freshman Team and received First Team All Mountain East Conference honors.
The former Vikings, Gillispie, who is majoring in Nursing, and Kennedy, majoring in Exercise Science, look forward to their futures and continued success on the field with their coach and teammates, as Fighting Falcons.