PHOTO BY KEITH DURFLINGER, NORWALK PATRIOT
For the first time in the lives of the Rainey twins, they will be going their separate ways in college and the sport they love – water polo.
Samantha and Shyanne Rainey, who have been on the same water polo teams since the age of 12, are attending Biola and APU, respectively.
Shyanne, a sophomore this coming season at APU, and Samantha, a freshman on the inaugural Biola team beginning in 2022, will be on opposite sides when the two NCAA DII teams meet in a friendly next year.
“As this season approaches, I’m excited to compete against Samantha and the Biola water polo team,” Shyanne said. “APU will be ready to play Biola. Competition is engraved in everyone, and when a game happens against Samantha and Biola, both teams will bring their A-game.”
Samantha simply said, “Game on.”
Even though they have always played the game of water polo together, there is a very competitive edge in just about every other facet of life between them.
“Competition between twins is bound to happen,” said Shyanne, who has been at APU for two seasons. “For Samantha and I, our competition ranges from who can eat the most pizza, if we sit on the ground, which dog will come to us first, and who can name the most dog breeds and NFL teams.”
The twins learned about the game of water polo from their babysitter, Hailey Kavern, and took to it like fish to water.
Kavern had previously been a goalie on the Porterville varsity team.
“We first learned about water polo when our babysitter took us out in our backyard pool and said, ‘I’m going to teach you how to do the egg beater,’” Shyanne said.
The twins, who started swimming at the age of five, eventually found themselves on a club water polo team. Things got really serious after their mom, Deborah, started a club team (16 U) with another mom when the twins were in middle school.
“My mom jumped in feet first and said ‘I’ll do anything for my girls to play water polo,’” Samantha said.
They received valuable experience when they would show up to practice at Porterville High under then coach Richard Taylor, after the varsity and participate with other players that weren’t in high school yet.
And so it began.
Both Shyanne and Samantha took advantage of the lessons from Kavern and eventually became an integral part of the varsity team at Porterville.
It all culminated with a CIF-Central Section D 2 title in their senior year with a 10-7 win over Redwood under coach Evan Thomas. Shyanne, during the season, scored 100 goals for the team in route to a 25-5 record. In addition to playing goalie for the Panthers, Samantha also had 11 goals and 11 assists.
“It (winning the title) was really fun,” Shyanne said. “Her sister, like she does so much, finished the sentence. “It was so much fun and we had been playing since we were 12,” Samantha added. “To see us both grow in the sport that we love so much together and win a CIF Championship and to take it home to our home town was just special.”
A “third sister” and teammate, Rosemary Chapman, was also a big part of the championship. She is now currently at Fresno Pacific.
Both Shyanne and Samantha credit Thomas for bringing their abilities to the next level. “He literally taught me everything I know about being a goalie and he was a big asset to our water polo careers,” Samantha added.
After high school, Shyanne was accepted to play at APU (kinesiology major), but Samantha didn’t initially look into water polo in college due to her interest in her major, sports marketing.
Samantha, who had interest from other colleges, decided to enroll at California State University, San Bernardino, but didn’t play water polo.
That all changed when Shyanne found out that Sarah Orozco (former UCLA player and NCAA champion) was named coach at Biola in May of 2020.
Samantha then got in contact with Orozco and it was the beginning of a whole new direction for her.
Each of the girls are preparing for the season and are getting ready for practice.
“We already have a game plan to work out together before college,” Samantha said. “We’re just motivating ourselves to just get better and be a better player.”
Both players are getting ready for the fall season workout and preparing for the 2022 season.
“I’m so happy to get started and get ready for that game-day experience and waking up and wearing the (APU) shirt,” Shyanne said.
Samantha, who hasn’t had an actual practice with a team in two years, was just as excited to get started. “I’m excited for this whole new journey and I already know four of the players.”
Sam Rainey, father and swim instructor
“I taught them to swim when they were five and then water polo in junior high school and the championship game in high school,” Sam Rainey said. “It’s an ongoing story and I’m looking forward to it.”
Sam was asked how excited he was to see Samantha play again. After a short pause, he said, “I’m excited and looking forward to it and we’ll see how it goes.”
He has already put APU on notice of the Biola women’s water polo program when he attended one of Shyanne’s games.
“I already wore a Biola shirt to an APU game just to get everybody’s attention,” he said. “We’ll probably have to switch shirts at the games.”
Deborah Rainey, the twins’ mom, also was excited to get to the games, including the one APU-Biola match.
“We know some of the parents at APU and Biola and will probably get razzed on who we are cheering for,” she said.
And, to top it off, the stands are all on one side at APU. Stay tuned.
“It’s going to be really exciting because we’ve been doing it with them for so many years,” Deborah Rainey said. “I followed them through each level – from seventh grade to high school. Finally we got to a point: now that we’ve done everything we can for you, now it’s your turn. It’s come to see if all of that money and traveling to games is finally paid off.
“It’s actually exciting to see your kids grow and see their accomplishments.”
The early years
The twins grew up playing basketball and swimming before they dedicated their time to water polo.
“We found most competition in basketball even when we were on the same team,” Shyanne said.
They would see who would make the most shots from the free-throw line, the box, and the three-point line.
“I always won at the free-throw line and the three-point line.”
Samantha was the post-up player. But, after practice and the game, the most competition I think was with ourselves.
After practice they would go home and practice free throws and layups hours after hours, and they wouldn’t bow out until the other one called it a day.
With swimming, competition was still the same.
‘It picked up in high school when we were in the same lane and then swimming against each other in meets,” Shyanne said. “During a recreational swim meet around the age of 17, we were both ready to swim the Individual Medley.
“Out of the two of us, I was the best at backstroke and freestyle, while Samantha was the best at butterfly and breaststroke.”
Deborah Rainey was watching on the sideline, and noticed the butterfly was so in sync, she couldn’t even tell if another person was swimming. It was a close race, but Shyanne came out with the win.
“Having a built-in best friend, training partner, and sister, is the best thing I could ever have,” Shyanne added. “When we go to the local Cross Fit gym (D’s Xtreme Fitness), we push each other to train the best and see who can finish the workout first.”
Both players may be going to different colleges, but will remain close as ever doing their workouts. “We honestly could not have the competitive gene if it weren’t for our parents, Shyanne said. “They push us every day to be our best and are amazing parents to have as our support team.”