High school students from one end of Garfield County to the other will find themselves playing sports at the same university next fall.
On Wednesday, Roaring Fork twin sisters Hattie and Megan Gianinetti signed to play volleyball for Division II Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction. Also, Rifle senior Taylor Walters signed to play golf at Mesa next fall.
Wednesday marked the first day of the NCAA's regular signing period for sports such as basketball, volleyball, golf, and hockey. The signing period ends on Aug. 1.
The 6-foot-1 sisters, who have commonly been referred to as the "Twin Towers" when introduced prior to volleyball matches and basketball games, stood out among the players in the Class 3A Western Slope League. Hattie was named the WSL's volleyball Player of the Year, and Megan received first-team recognition in 2012, a season which saw the Rams go 23-5 overall, win a regional championship and come just a tiebreaker set away from playing in the 3A semifinals in Denver.
They helped anchor a stellar front line for Roaring Fork over the course of the season. Megan averaged 2.7 kills per game, and Hattie's 3.2-kill average ranked 13th among Colorado's Class 3A players in 2012. Both were part of a squad that twice reached the 3A State Championships at the Denver Coliseum.
They proved themselves on the basketball court, also, by each earning an all-state honorable mention by The Denver Post last week. That all-around athleticism, they feel, made a difference in Mesa's interest, even though there were not many colleges which came after them.
"I think it was a case where they saw we were athletic that way and that we have a lot of potential," Hattie said. "They know that we're hard workers, and I know we'll be able to show that."
The Gianinetti sisters will play for Dave Fleming, who this fall will enter his ninth season as Mesa's coach. The Mavericks have won three RMAC Western Division titles in his tenure. Last year, the Mavs posted a 17-11 overall record, losing to then-No. 12 Colorado School of Mines in the first round of the RMAC Tournament.
And now that they're focusing on volleyball, the Twin Towers feel they can help Mesa get better.
"The fact that we haven't quite focused on how much we can do just on the volleyball court yet will be big," Megan said.
Walters has been big throughout her high school career. She's reached state-tournament play in each of her previous three seasons, managing a seventh-place finish in the Class 4A State Championships at Boomerang Golf Links in Greeley.
She's posted two tournament victories in the past two weeks, including the Grand Valley Invitational at Battlement Mesa Golf Course and Tuesday's win at Conquistador Golf Course in Cortez. According to Rifle coach Britt Choate, the magnitude of Walters' first-place score of 76 was amplified by the quality shots she took while facing 60 mph wind gusts on the course.
"Overall, she's a great leader with a positive attitude," the coach said. "Her game has reached a level to where she can contribute significantly as a college player."
Walters said attending Mesa to play golf was almost a sure thing even though she'd also been approached by one other school, Adams State University in Alamosa. Her dad, Roger, had coached the women's basketball team at Mesa until this season, and she feels comfortable around Grand Junction and Mesa's campus.
Scott Hansen is in his fifth season of coaching the Mavs. In 2012, Mesa advanced to the NCAA Division II National Championships in Louisville, Ky., for the first time in school history.
"Coach Hansen made an effort to come out and watch me at one of my tournaments this summer," Walters said. "It was pretty neat that he showed interest like that."
Walters still has close to a month remaining in her final high school golf season. It's time that she plans to take advantage of while cherishing the time she's had at Rifle.
"It's been awesome," Walters said. "I've been very lucky to have some great coaches who have helped me become a better golfer. They've helped me to make sure I believe in myself."
Walters and the Gianinetti sisters aren't the only Garfield County athletes who have committed to play intercollegiate athletics in the fall.
Kelsey Fauser, who currently competes for the girls soccer and track and field teams at Coal Ridge High School, will play girls soccer for Coe College, a Division III school in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Grand Valley in Parachute also has a pair of athletes who will compete collegially. Tarianna Lawrence has signed her letter of intent to play volleyball at McPherson College, an NAIA school in McPherson, Kan. Cody Pfau, a three-time qualifier for the State Wrestling Championships in Denver who this year became the first female in Colorado to win a championship-round match, will compete on the women's wrestling team at NAIA Oklahoma City University.