First-year Francis Marion University women's volleyball head coach Lauren Baufield has announced the signing of 5-11 right-side hitter/middleblocker Courtney Abdur-Rahim of Saint Johns, Fla., 6-2 outside/right-side hitter Kayla Arthur of Holly Springs, N.C., 5-10 outside/right-side hitter Cortney Bowen of Blythewood, S.C., 5-7 setter Tori Carpenter (pictured right) of Saint Johns, Fla., and 5-4 libero/defensive specialist Natalie Ferrell of Franklinton, N.C., to national letters of intent during the recent signing period.
Abdur-Rahim is a product of Bartram Trail High School, where she played under the direction of coaches Audrey Hatz and Julie Vanduesen. This past season, she recorded averaged 2.3 kills per set with a .225 hitting percentage, while totaling 200 kills, 78 digs, 31 blocks, and 11 service aces for an 18-8 Bears squad.
She garnered first-team All-Area and St. Augustine Record All-County accolades in addition to earning All-Conference recognition and being nominated for Miss Florida Volleyball.
Her two-year varsity career totals consist of 356 kills, 124 digs, 86 blocks, 34 service aces, and a .245 hitting percentage.
"Courtney is a dynamic and versatile player anywhere along the front row," Baufield said. "She has rich experience in any position and possesses the work ethic to master each of them. Her desire to be the best on the court is a trait that makes her a player to watch. She is a team player and will do what is needed for the team to succeed. Her personality is affectious and will immediately have a positive impact on our program."
Arthur hails from Holly Springs High School, where she played for coach Emily Rice. As a senior, she averaged 2.6 kills and 2.9 digs per set, while registering a .122 hitting percentage, 40 blocks and 20 service aces. She ranked fifth in her conference for kills and among the top 10 in digs. She earned All-Conference honors and was an Academic All-Conference selection for the third consecutive year.
Her three-year varsity totals include 382 kills, 406 digs, 235 blocks, and 66 service aces.
"Kayla also played with a great club (Triangle Volleyball Club) that is known nationwide for their training. She is a dynamic and versatile pin (outside or right-side hitter). Her blocking is a great tool that will impact our program and be a strength of our squad moving forward. When faced with adverse situations, Kayla finds a way to reach within herself and push forward, which is what we love about her. She won't back down from anyone."
Bowen is a product of Blythewood High School, where she played for coach Mary Hall. She missed her entire senior season with an injury, but as a junior averaged 1.5 kills per set with 54 blocks and a .250 hitting percentage.
She also played with the SC Midlands Volleyball Club.
"Cortney is a very gifted athlete who has not yet reached her full potential. She is a dynamic outside hitter that has the potential to be a standout in the Peach Belt Conference. She is ready to learn and go hard. We couldn't be more excited about what she brings to the table."
Carpenter comes to FMU from Creekside High School, where she played for coach Megan Bowers. This past year, she averaged 8.3 assists, 2.4 digs, and 1.2 kills per set with 21 service aces and 21 blocks for a 21-4 Knights team.
She registered first-team All-City honors and like Abdur-Rahim was named to the first-team St. Augustine Record All-County squad. She garnered second-team All-County honors as a junior while helping lead the Knights to a 24-5 record and an appearance in the quarterfinals of the state tournament.
Her three-year prep career totals from Creekside include 1010 assists, 410 digs, 177 kills, and 80 aces. She also attended Newark High School.
Her travel team at the Jacksonville Junior Volleyball Association (JJVA) earned two national bids to play in Dallas.
"Tori's competitive attitude and high expectations she sets for herself will contribute to our program immediately. She is coming out of high school and club ball with a great playing and training experience. Her quickness and ability to get her hands on any ball will help set our attackers up for success. We are very excited to see what she can do in her future. "
Ferrell is a product of South Granville High School, where she played under the direction of coach Christy Fitzgerald. This past season, she averaged a team-high 1.9 digs per set and served a team-high 71 aces. She posted a serve reception percentage of 86.3 percent on nearly 400 receptions. As a team captain, she helped the Vikings to a 23-4 mark, including a perfect 14-0 conference record, and a spot in the third round of the state playoffs.
She recently earned Carolina Region All-State Team honors and was a member of the 2015 state title team.
She previously played at Heritage High School, and has played with the NC Elite Volleyball Club and the Jammers Volleyball Club. She twice earned AAU Academic All-America recognition.
"Natalie's personality on and off the court is what attracted us most to her. She possesses a strong team-first mentality and is always eager to do what is best for the squad. Natalie has the true 'bro' personality, in that she verbalizes non-stop with her teammates, leads the back court to make changes, and sees plays before they happen. Her ball control and digging mentality will affect our entire gym."
Francis Marion finished its recent season with a 16-13 record, placing fourth during the Peach Belt Conference regular season, and reaching the semifinals of the PBC Tournament. The Patriots narrowly missed earning a bid to the NCAA Division II national tournament.
The five players join 6-0 outside hitter Jessica Helmink of Buford, Ga., and 5-10 middleblocker Veronica Lane of Spotsylvania, Va., who signed with Francis Marion during the 2016 early signing period.
"I am extremely excited about this group," Baufield added. "These seven will add depth to our bench, one in which I could call on at any time. They will bring a renewed type of competitiveness to the Smith University Center."