By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
WATER POLO: Friends 'til the end
Ripon’s four seniors are lifelong teammates
Bulletin sports fall 2021
Kennedy Brubaker, from left, Taylor Blair and Delaney Brubaker were honored during the Ripon water polo team’s Senior Night on Oct. 26. - photo by Contributed


SJS Division III playoffs

GIRLS (today)

(7) Amador at (2) Ripon, 3:30


BOYS (Friday)

(6) Los Banos at (3) Ripon, 3:30 p.m.

Ripon’s boys and girls water polo teams feature four seniors whose intertwining relationships go back to their preschool days.

They’re spearheading young squads in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division III playoffs this week. Twin sisters Delaney and Kennedy Brubaker are joined by Taylor Blair on the two-time reigning Valley Oak League champion girls team (16-6), which welcomes Amador today for their opener. The VOL co-champion boys, led by Donovan Armstrong, takes on Los Banos on Friday. Both games take place at Ervin Zador Aquatic Center and start at 3:30 p.m.

The quartet has been instrumental in both teams’ success.

Blair and the Brubakers were juniors during the pandemic-shortened spring season but were in the shadow of a deep senior class that would have had high expectations if it had a normal fall campaign. In 2019, the Indians were eliminated by VOL rival Kimball in the Section semifinals after beating the Jaguars handily twice in the regular season.

“We started the year with a very new team,” Delaney Brubaker said. She is the team’s starting goalkeeper. “We have a ton of freshmen and sophomores and at first we were

This year we started off our team is very new we have a ton of freshmen and sophomores and we were just trying to get used to each other. With the way we started off, I think we’ve really come a long way with our improvement. I’m glad we made it to the playoffs because it just shows we put in the effort. We’re really proud of it.”

Bulletin sports fall 2021
Donovan Armstrong fires a shot for Ripon during a Valley Oak League game at Sierra on Oct. 7. - photo by Wayne Thallander
On the boys side, Armstrong is the lone upperclassmen for a group consisting of 10 freshmen and a sophomore. Two years ago, Ripon had 10 upperclassmen and qualified for the SJS playoffs.

Armstrong and the Brubakers have known each other since they were 3, frolicking poolside during their older siblings’ meets. They eventually began their own swim careers with the Manteca Dolphins and were classmates at McParland School. Blair, who attended Veritas School, joined them on the recreational club team when they were all kindergarteners, forging a year-round relationship poolside and beyond.

“When we were younger, we’d go from the Manteca Dolphins to the extended season with Ripon so we were always together from March to October,” Delaney said. “We used to carpool with Donovan and we used to go to school with him. We always had each other to rely on as a friend group. We’ve never really had any arguments or issues between any of us because we’ve all clicked together.”

The three girls joined the Ripon Aquatics year-round competitive swim and water polo club when they were 9, and Armstrong made the jump the following year. The Brubakers and Blair have since been mentored by Erik Zador, who established Ripon High’s water polo program in 2010 and now coaches the girls team. Former Gregori High standout and Ripon Aquatics alum Christian Britton is the boys coach.

There will eventually be a time when the four branch out, but their friendships are sure to last the rest of their lives. Armstrong looks to go out of state for college and become a firefighter. Blair aspires to attend a school in Southern California and major in business.

The twins hope to keep playing locally at a community college, but even they are going their separate ways at some point. Kennedy will pursue a career as a school teacher, while Delaney plans to transfer to Loma Linda University where she will major in Nuclear Medicine.

“We haven’t really talked about it, but I know we’ll still stay in touch because we have an incredible bond,” Delaney said. “We have taken on sibling roles and we have each other’s back. Even if we were to argue and bicker, we all love and care for each other. We’ll stay in touch even if we go to different colleges or states.”