When Sarah Neason tells people she plays water polo they picture her riding a horse.
But there are no horses at 6 a.m. practice at the Carroll ISD Aquatic Center, only a group of 20 plus young athletes in a pool.
“No body really knows what water polo really is,” Neason said. “It’s kind of like soccer but in the water but you don’t use you feet, you use your hands and you don't run, you swim.”
The club’s short season, March-to-May short, is in full swing with tournaments almost every weekend and the teenagers in the pool cannot get enough of the sport.
Neason, a Carroll senior and girl’s team captain, has played water polo since her freshman year. Like many of her teammates, Neason started as a competitive swimmer and tested new waters in polo during the off season. Soon she found a joy in water polo that she didn’t get from swimming.
“I love the team aspect of it and really having to work together to accomplish your goals of scoring goals and winning,” she said. “A lot of swimmers don’t really see how to work together to accomplish something where as in water polo you definitely get that.”
Now the soon-to-be SMU Mustang leads one of the best water polo teams in the region. At practice she’s giving out pointers almost as loud as head coach Joey Yglesias, and even doing the disciplining. When a player won’t stop yapping during a drill, Neason holds the ball and tells him to quit being a distraction.
Neason said she learned so much from her seniors, that she enjoys teaching the new class.
“Everybody needs somebody to take some time to teach them, help them and listen to them,” she said. “If I can be that for somebody that’s all I really want.”
Neason, in a blue swimsuit, sits poolside with up-and-comer Katie Nedrow talking about her experience with the sport while other club members run drills.
“I’ve been practicing with her almost every day for past seven months,” Nedrow, a sophomore said. “She’s really helped me grow into the player I am now.”
Nedrow has been playing for a year, but has already found a special place in her heart for the sport that has her playing directly with a team.
“I like the feeling after you win a really tough game and you know its because all the girls are trying their hardest and all the work that you’ve put in during practice paid off,” she said.
Nedrow is part of a growing wave of new players.
Coach Joey Yglesias played for the Carroll Water Polo Club from 2004-2007 and says the sports popularity has been on the rise.
“Right now we have 24 boys and 20 girls,” he said. “In comparison, back when I was in high school we maybe had 11-12 boys and girls.”
On the wall near where the team practices is a poster that reads: A whole new tradition, Southlake Carroll Water Polo.
Ygelsias said back then everyone was a swimmer and only played water polo in the off-season. Now some of the the club members play year round in a regional league.
Freshman Zach Lowery may be new to the Carroll club, but he’s been playing water polo for five years.
His experience shows at practice where he tries behind-the-back shots and leaves his scrimmage mates confused with his mad-scientist plays.
“He always draws up this elaborate plays that never work out,” boys varsity co-captain Austin Arkes said about Lowery.
Lowery’s passion for water polo is two fold.
“I like that it’s a physical sport and I like the water,” he said.