Her mother was a three-sport standout at Camden High who went to Furman University to play volleyball. Her father came out of Georgia to sign with and play football at Furman. When it was time for Sarah Turner to make her college choice, well, why ruin what has become a family tradition.
When Turner, a senior at Lugoff-Elgin, was choosing the right fit for a school and a volleyball program, Furman filled the bill in both respects. Her signing with the Paladins during a ceremony held inside the L-E Wellness Center cemented the deal.
With an eye on majoring in environmental studies, Furman will satisfy Turner’s academic, athletic and social needs while a college student. Her parents did not have to sway a young lady who also considered fellow Southern Conference member, Mercer University, among others, before making her decision on a college destination.
“Why not Furman?” she said when asked of her college decision, “It has a beautiful campus, great academics, great athletics … all around, it’s the best package.”
It was not like the school, its programs and the Greenville area were foreign to Turner. She will probably enter the school with as much knowledge of Furman as any incoming freshman this summer.
“We went up to homecoming there, a lot, when I was growing up,” she said with a smile. “I saw the changes they have made over the years and everything they’re trying to do there. I love everything about it.”
Turner, a member of the National Honor Society, National Beta Club and who has been on the L-E Honor Roll since her freshman year at the school, was a 2018 South Carolina Wendy’s High School Heisman Finalist. All this came in spite of missing all but a few points of her senior volleyball season after having sustained a knee injury during a soccer match while playing for the Lady Demons last April.
“I just planted wrong. I was cutting, dribbling and tore the ACL, meniscus, MCL …,” she said of the severity of the injury.
“There’s part of you that thinks, ‘OK, it can’t be that bad.’ Realistically, I thought that I did something,” she said of the injury which resulted in an operation in the weeks to follow which took her from the L-E volleyball team save for her making a cameo appearance on senior night last October.
Losing Turner meant the 2018 Lady Demons would be minus their 2017 All-State selection who was a two-time All-Region 6-4A choice and was coming off a junior campaign in which the conference coaches selected Turner as the 2017 conference player of the year.
It was a bitter pill for Katie Ham’s program to swallow in losing their floor general who was relegated to being a student assistant coach. In her unofficial capacity, Turner became an advisor for her successor, sophomore setter Morgan Craft. It was not the same, however, as having an experienced senior leader helping set up things on offense and defense for the Lady Demons who lost in the first round of the 5A state playoffs to eventual Lower State champion Wando.
“Obviously, she was vital to our team but we did not ‘lose her, lose her,’” Ham said. “Sarah was still part of us. It was great to have her brain on the bench because she has a setter’s mindset. She was actually able to really help coach our young setter, Morgan Craft, and helped to develop her game.”
Not being able to fully participate in practices, let alone play in matches, schools did not shy away from their pursuit of Turner, who said the past fall was a learning experience for her. She also harbored no regrets or, wondered “what if” she was full healthy and able to play an entire senior season.
“It is what it is. You take it in stride,” she said of what could be considered a lost final high school campaign. “It wasn’t anything like I expected it to be, but it was good seeing a different aspect of the game. In the long run, it will help me.
“(You learn) a lot about body language when you’re not playing; how you’re interpreting what’s going on and how you take it and move on … just, all-around, how to be a better teammate.”
At Furman, she is expected to continue playing as a setter for head coach Michelle Young’s squad. The fact that Young was a setter during her college playing days at Clemson is an added bonus for Turner who said she will play “wherever I’m needed.” For now, setter looks to be the spot.
“I love that coach Young was a setter. I think that I’ll be able to learn a lot from her and a lot from the team,” Turner said of Young, who will enter her 20th season as the Paladins’ head coach. “She has very, very high expectations; she always has. I think that’s going to push me to be the best person and player than I can become.”
Count Ham among those who think Young will not have to do much pushing when it comes to getting the best out of Turner.
“I’ve known Sarah since she was a kid. She’s an awesome leader. She’s highly involved in the school and in the community. Obviously, she’s athletic but when she is playing, her humble leadership really shines through,” she said.
“She’ll grow to a more dominant front row player because I’m sure that they will probably want to use her as a 5-1 (player) because she can already block. She can also use her left hand and will develop that more as a swing to be more of threat there. Furman has a good one coming their way.”
For her part, Turner is preparing herself mentally and physically for the quicker pace of the college game and college life, in general, as compared to high school.
“It’s a lot faster. It’s more about who you are and what you are doing for the team and not just ‘Can you do everything?’ It’s can you focus on what you need to do and, can you get it done efficiently and, do it at the right pace,” she said of the college game.
“You can condition yourself to be ready for that pace, but once you get there, it’s going to be a little bit of a whirlwind, at first.”
That is just one of the changes awaiting Sarah Turner as she prepares for a new adventure, a fresh, injury-free start, you might say, at Furman.
“I’m ready for a new chapter. I think this day is going to be that opening for me,” she said after her signing her National Letter of Intent. “I’m really excited about it and I’m ready to go in this summer and get some work done.”