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Eagles lead water polo movement

It started innocently enough as a way for the Collins Hill swim team to conclude rare morning practices each year: Set up two trash cans and play water polo.

Head coach Jenny Weaver wasn't looking for much more when she saw an e-mail from a Wheeler coach, offering up the Cobb school's old water polo goals. She grabbed them up immediately, but only to eliminate the need for trash-can goals.

That one decision started the whirlwind rise of water polo at the Suwanee high school.

Now the co-ed Eagles, in their first season, have a 6-0 record in club water polo entering two weekend matches at the Collins Hill Aquatic Center - Friday at 6 p.m. vs. West Forsyth and an important one Saturday at 11:05 a.m. against St. Pius.

"I wanted (the goals) for that one fun practice," Weaver said. "Then they told us they put us on the schedule for games (this year). I was like, 'What?'

"The rest is history."

The rest was quite a learning experience for the former Missouri swimmer, who led the Eagles to boys swimming and diving state titles in 2004 and 2005. She knew very little about water polo, a sport that uses terms like bunny shot (also known as a doughnut), greenie, dry pass and fronting the hole.

But with help from club-level college players Phong Nguyen, a Collins Hill grad, and her assistant coach, Shiloh grad Brian Collins, the transition was easier.

Now the Eagles are at the forefront of a push to make water polo more prominent in Georgia high schools. Only Collins Hill and Wesleyan, a private school, currently have club water polo teams in Gwinnett.

It's no surprise to see water polo, a strenuous but fun sport to play, catching on. Weaver hopes the sport can follow a path similar to lacrosse in Gwinnett, blossoming from a well-liked club sport to a Georgia High School Association varsity sport.

Collins Hill is taking an active role in promoting the sport to other high schools in a swimming-crazed county, offering a booklet on starting up a team and informative meetings. The Eagles went through the guinea pig process, now they hope to help others start water polo smoothly.

"It's physically hard, it combines elements of soccer, hockey, swimming and wrestling all in one sport," Weaver said. "I really hope it catches on. I was interested in it, but I wasn't jumping up and down about it right away. But once I got involved with it, I absolutely fell in love with it."

Will Hammock can be reached via e-mail at will.hammock@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Thursdays.