CONCORD — Rachel Cain’s volleyball career took a drastic turn in the fall of 2015.
Cain was a freshman and not expected to see much, if any time on the varsity girls volleyball team at Garnet Valley. Then junior setter Gabby Davis, who would go on to earn All-Delco honors as a senior, rolled her ankle and Cain’s athletic career changed forever.
Suddenly, she was thrust into the starting lineup of a team that was dominated by seniors and juniors.
“It was eye-opening,” Cain said. “Gabby was an amazing setter and having to step in was a huge responsibility. It taught me a lot about leadership, friendship, responsibility and just volleyball in general. I think it was a great learning experience and I’m really thankful I got the chance.”
It wasn’t smooth sailing. There were moments of doubt.
“She was scared,” said Garnet Valley head coach Greg Wood, who was in his first season as an assistant coach under Mark Clark. “There were a lot of tears those first couple of days. “There were a lot of conversations that I had with her, telling her how good she was and how much I believed in her. It was hard. It was a good team with a lot of seniors and here was a freshman who a week before was worried about making the freshman and JV teams and now she’s starting varsity.”
“It was scary, but I had a great group of girls with me,” said Cain, who will play volleyball and study nursing at East Stroudsburg University. “They were very supportive. There were a lot of seniors on that team and they were just amazing to me. I’ll never forget how nice they were to me.”
That experience sowed the seeds for a career that would culminate in Cain being named All-Delco twice and the 2018 Daily Times Player of the Year.
“I remember telling her that this was not about now, this is about you being all-state as a senior,” Wood said. “This is about you being Player of the Year three, four years from now. To see how hard she’s worked and see where she is today, all those goals have come true. She’s one of the best players in the state and I’m just proud of her.
“She got to learn quickly. She was thrown right into the fire and never missed a beat. We had a lot of conversations early on. Being around that state championship team in 2016 really helped her, too. She was capable of running that team. We were fortunate to have two very good setters and it helped her grow as a player and as a leader.”
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