Photo: Scott Karlins Collins Hill senior John Roquet defends against St. Pius during the Georgia High School Water Polo Association state championship game last Sunday. Roquet was named the league's defensive player of the year.
Jesse Frazier and John Roquet had no time to savor being named the top water polo players in the state.
The announcement came right before they played in the state semifinals and, when the day was over, the disappointment of losing by one goal to St. Pius in the championship game overshadowed everything.
"Getting out of the pool after that final game, everything was kind of numb," Frazier said. "That plaque really didn't mean too much to me then."
But a few days later, the Collins Hill senior co-captains were better able to appreciate the individual awards.
"It's a big honor, obviously," Roquet said. "It's not state, but it's nice to have."
"I realized it is an honor that I was awarded by the coaches that I've been playing against for four years," he said. "Especially the coaches that I've played for (in club) because some of them have taught me things I use against them."
Selected by the league's coaches, Frazier was voted the GHSWPA Offensive Player of the Year and Roquet was the Defensive Player of the Year.
Roquet admits he figured he was at least in the running for the award. But he was still surprised to be picked.
"This year I didn't play nearly as much whole 'D' as I have in the past," said Roquet, who has been on the team for four years. "I didn't really expect to win. There's a guy from Pius who is really talented that I thought would win."
Another Eagle, junior Becky Bass, was named the offensive player of the year for the newly formed girls league.
"It's pretty phenomenal that these boys can say they're a member of a team that has never missed the finals," assistant coach Jennifer Weaver said. "We've been in existence five years and for five years we've been in the state finals.
"There aren't many teams, in any sport, that can say that. Always, it's the hard part to live up to, but this team has."
It's taken them a little while to get beyond finishing second.
The bar for Collins Hill is high. The Eagles have been playing water polo for five years. They've been in the state final five times. They won titles their first year and again last season when they were unbeaten.
In fact, St. Pius is the only team to defeat Collins Hill in the last two years. It happened twice this season, but the second was obviously the heartbreaker.
"Earlier in the season, (goalie) Sam (Beckwith) had an ... unbelievable, I guess would be the best word to describe how he played that game," Frazier said. "I couldn't touch him. I was like 2-for-7, which is not good for me.
"They came out and scored on us first, which is why I'm surprised they were able to pull themselves together in the state game. When they scored first on us, we never caught our composure. We started yelling at each other and our team chemistry broke down. We were playing as individuals that game. Sunday we played as a team, and we lost as a team."
Collins Hill and St. Pius were scoreless through the first quarter of the championship game Sunday at the Cumming Aquatic Center.
In the second quarter, the Eagles grabbed a 2-1 lead.
"It was looking good for us," Frazier said. "They were yelling at each other. They seemed like they were falling apart."
"The third quarter was still pretty equally matched, but you could tell they were starting to get themselves together, collect themselves."
Beckwith kept things tight while his team ironed out its issues.
"He is their rock," Frazier said. "The way they play, they expect Sam to block the shots.
"They came out and outplayed us, basically."
Frazier scored both of his goals in the second half, but it only got the Eagles even each time.
"I was playing catch-up," said Frazier, who started playing as an eighth-grader.
St. Pius went ahead for good, 5-4, with about three minutes left in regulation.
"We just weren't able to get the ball back and capitalize," Frazier said.
Collins Hill had to work hard to get there, narrowly beating Norcross 7-6.
"Norcross came out and surprised a bunch of people this year," Roquet said.
The Eagles got a slow start in the semifinal, getting down by two goals before fighting through for the win."Norcross has an even level of talent, which is hard because you can't leave one guy open," Frazier said.
Roquet praised the Blue Devils' goalie as well.
"Sam skews the scale, but the Norcross goalie is extremely good, too," he said. "They had a really good game, but I think as it went on, you could tell who was the better team."
Norcross is one of the up-and-coming teams in the league, which has grown exponentially over the last six seasons. It started with four teams the year before Collins Hill joined and is now up to 21 teams. It makes winning a state title more difficult each year.
"For the seniors especially, and the captains because we're supposed to lead the team, it's hard for us to play our final game and lose," Frazier said. "But it was an honor to lead the team and I couldn't have asked for a better team or a better season. I'm just glad I got an opportunity to do it."
"I don't think we as a team have any regrets," he said. "That's what makes it, not easy, but easier to swallow a second-place finish. We know we went out and gave it all we have as a team.
"While we didn't play perfect games, we made our mistakes at full speed and we did our best."