FLORENCE, S.C. – Francis Marion University women’s volleyball coach Sonny Kirkpatrick has announced the signing of Jackie Balla of Sterling, Va., Brittany Helgeson of Virginia Beach, Va., Jackie Phiel of Amherst, Ohio, and Michelle Settergren of Walnut, Calif., to national letters of intent to attend FMU this fall and play for the Patriots.
Balla, a 5-11 middlehitter, is a graduate of Potomac Falls High School, where she played for coaches Toni Brown and Linda Lachey-Helms. As a senior, she led her team in kills and blocks, while possessing a 9-8 approach touch.
Helgeson, a 5-8 setter, is a product of Floyd E. Kellam High School, where she played under the direction of coach Lisa Scott. A four-year letterwinner, she twice earned All-Beach District honors. She also helped lead her squad to back-to-back league championships in 2001 and 2002.
Phiel, a 5-9 outside hitter, is a graduate of Amherst Steele High School, where she played for coach Laurie Cogan. She is a two-time All-Southwest Conference selection and was chosen as an All Lorain County All-Star. A three-year starter, she has an 8-9 approach touch and a 7-5 standing reach. This past season, she helped lead her team to a 26-2 record, an unbeaten 14-0 SWC mark, and a No. 6 state ranking.
She also played club volleyball with the Kaepa Cleveland Volleyball Company, and has participated in the Junior Olympic nationals in six of the past eight seasons. She is also a highly competitive swimmer, ranking 20th statewide in the 100 breaststroke.
Settergren, a 5-11 outside hitter, is a product of Walnut High School, where she played for coaches Angela McElroy and Jen Fredrickson.
She was a first-team All-League selection in 2002 and 2003, and earned her squad’s Best Offensive Player award this past year. She was also an academic All-League honoree in 2002.
“This is a quality recruiting class, with the possibility of all four finding their way into the starting lineup,” said Kirkpatrick. “Balla is very athletic with lots of potential. Her game produces good things and she will only get better with college experience. Helgeson has great hands, makes good decisions, has good defensive skills, and is excellent at distributing the ball. With one returning setter, she will compete for playing time. Phiel is an outside player with a big arm. She is a super athlete, jumps well, and has great ball control. She will add a lot offensively and defensively to our squad. Settergren is a ‘big-time’ player who could be a dominant force in the Peach Belt (Conference) immediately. She is tall, athletic, and strong and has the versatility to play several positions. She is one of the top recruits we have welcomed in during my time at FMU.”
Francis Marion returns five letterwinners, including three starters, from last season’s 11-24 team.