Midway through their third game Thursday night Sarabeth Haworth yelled to her cousin and fellow Mesa Ridge volleyball captain Grace Neal, “Go, Go, Go!”
In a matter of seconds the 5-foot-9 outside hitter was barreling toward the Grizzlies cheerleaders on the baseline in hopes of snagging a high sailing ball.
Down came the ball, and down with it went Neal.
A point was awarded to Sand Creek, but up popped Neal with a smile on her face – and Haworth laughing with her.
“It encourages me to hear her yelling because it helps me know that I can get to the ball or have a chance,” Neal said after Mesa Ridge’s 25-12, 25-12 and 25-15 home victory over the Scorpions. “When she is encouraging me I always give my best for her and the team. Then she is always there to pick me up and help me get back on the court.”
At one point during the third game Neal dove for a loose ball and looked over at coach Francis Calar with a comical smile. He was right there laughing with her.
“Our philosophy as far as playing is to have fun, because if you’re not having fun why are you playing?” Calar said. “When they need to be serious, they’re serious.”
The Mesa Ridge captain’s smiles, chemistry and leadership have been contagious for the 7-2 Grizzlies.
Haworth (20 kills, 8 digs) and Neal (17 digs, 6 kills) have been playing volleyball together since they were 8 years old and are separated in age by only three months. They have developed what they call a “telepanesis” relationship, a word coined from Neal’s misuse of telekinesis and telepathy.
“We’re so close we’re like sisters, but live in different houses,” Haworth, also an outside hitter, said. “We can show up to school sometimes wearing the same stuff and we don’t even talk to each other. Grace is my best friend and we always push each other.”
Neal once again flashed her smile and laugh when asked about her “telepanesis” relationship with Haworth.
“We just have always had a connection,” the senior said. “We just always know what the other is doing, it’s kind of weird. But it was just a joke and we have kept it going for a very long time.”
“We laugh and when we’re sad we support each other,” Neal added. “It really helps having her on my team because I have someone to look to and I also look up to her because she is just such a big, important role on our team. I love her.”
The cousins were a powerful tandem that caught the eye of Sand Creek (2-6) coach Christine Massey.
“Mesa Ridge just has some really smart hitters,” Massey said. “They have the timing down and they have that mesh and have played together forever.”
Scorpions sophomore libero Allie Ellis contributed in defeat with a series of diving plays and finished with 13 digs. Teammate Sydney Hughes had 10 digs.
“She’s come a long way,” Massey said of Ellis. “Allie was a freshman on varsity last year and didn’t see a lot of court time, but she grew. She is a court leader and is there for her girls. She is ready to overcome and fight for every point.”
The leaders of Mesa Ridge, who received four votes in the Denver Post coaches’ 4A volleyball top 10 poll, hope that they can continue to build off their strong start.
“It’s my dream to go to the state,” Neal said. “Getting the votes is so exciting and I think we can really do it. We’re a good group of girls and we get along really well. We’re getting better.”