LAVACA — Abrie Rainwater won't be the most athletic volleyball player in Hot Springs on Saturday when the Lavaca Lady Golden Arrows battle Crowley's Ridge Academy for the 2A state championship at 2 p.m.
But Rainwater's prowess with the Lady Golden Arrows is a big reason the school is back on center stage.
"We showed up for practice before school and I noticed she wasn't around," Lavaca coach Mark Headley said. "She almost didn't play her senior year because she had a lot on her plate."
Headley reached out. Others followed suit.
Rainwater, the team's 5-foot-4 libero, had talked herself into staying home in the afternoon's to help her mom, Jennifer Taylor, with her young baby, Liam.
In addition to her concurrent college classes at UAFS, Rainwater was initially overwhelmed.
"I just have a lot going on," Rainwater said. "My mom had a baby, and there's another one on the way, and I thought, 'Oh my gosh, I'm doing college work this year and I have to help her.' It was just overwhelming.
"I thought there was no way I could play, too."
Headley, who stepped in in early August, taking over as coach just as Greg Pair Jr., was leaving for a position in Farmington, offered to help.
"Coach Headley was really nice about it," she said. "He said, 'I'll help you with the whole thing. We love you; we want you on this team. He said, 'You're a part of our family and we don't want to let you go. I'll help you with your college work; I'll do whatever you need me to do.'
"That really meant a lot to me — I get emotional talking about it."
The Lady Arrows have gotten hot at the right time, beating Hackett in the finals of the district tournament, followed by state tournament victories over Maumelle Charter, Ridgefield Christian and Conway St. Joseph's.
"I don't think Lavaca has won a state title in volleyball since 2008," Rainwater said. "This is a really big deal for us; this is what we've been working for since seventh grade. This whole team, we love each other so much; we're really tight."
Lavaca's senior roster also includes Morgan Taylor, Hope Headley, Hannah Parsons and Abby Glidewell.
The Golden Arrows (17-13) don't have the most glamorous record. But beating Hackett late in the season helped build confidence.
"Us coming together and beating them was a really big deal for us," Rainwater said. "That gave us a lot of confidence, individually and as a team. It's really made us think we can take state."