Nicole Lantagne Welch Introduced as UCSB's New Volleyball Coach

Nicole Lantagne Welch is interviewed by the Central Coast's ABC affiliate at her introductory press conference.  (Photo by Tony Mastres)
Nicole Lantagne Welch is interviewed by the Central Coast's ABC affiliate at her introductory press conference. (Photo by Tony Mastres)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Nicole Lantagne Welch, who guided the University of Miami (Fla.) women's volleyball program to five NCAA Tournaments, one Sweet 16 and 243 wins over 12 seasons, was named head coach of the UC Santa Barbara program last week and was introduced at a press conference Thursday.

Lantagne Welch, who steered the Hurricanes to each of the last four NCAA Tournaments, was named Atlantic Coast Conference Coach and AVCA East Region Coach of the Year in 2012, after her team went 25-6 overall and won a school record 17 games in ACC play.  She also earned both honors following the 2008 season. Additionally, five of her players were named All-East Region in 2012, a school record and tied for the most nationally.

"I am extremely excited for this opportunity and am looking forward to competing in the Big West and nationally," Lantagne Welch said.  "It was going to take a special situation to take me away from Miami and UCSB is one of those special situations."

A native of Encinitas, Calif., Lantagne Welch became head coach at Miami in 2001 and restarted a program that had been on a 20-year hiatus.  She immediately started building a winner and, in fact, coached the team to the NCAA Sweet 16 in just her second season.  In all, 10 of Lantagne Welch's teams posted winning records and six eclipsed the 20-win mark.

Her team's accomplishments in the classroom are just as impressive as they are on the court.  During Lantagne Welch's tenure as head coach, Miami had a 100% graduation rate.  Her team's fall grade point average in 2012 was 3.30 and its overall GPA was 3.14.  Finally, the Hurricane's Academic Progress Rate (APR) of 995 earned them a Public Recognition Award from the NCAA.

"Nicole is a great fit," said UCSB Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Mark Massari.  "At our first meeting she presented an impressive 'Plan for the Gauchos' and I was sold.  As an established coach she knows exactly how to build a program and where we want to go. On behalf of the University, we are excited for Nicole to lead our storied program and to welcome her home."

Lantagne Welch began her coaching career in 1994 as an assistant coach on the staff of her alma mater, Maryland.  In 1995 she became a graduate assistant coach at Ohio University. Lantagne Welch arrived at Miami after serving as an assistant coach at Texas A&M. During her three seasons there, the Aggies finished ranked in the top 20 and qualified for the NCAA Tournament each season (1997-99). In 1999, Texas A&M advanced to the elite eight of the NCAA Tournament, compiling a 28-6 record and a finished the year ranked ninth in the nation. 

Also a highly successful player at the University of Maryland (College Park), Lantagne Welch finished her illustrious career as the school's all-time leader in assists, digs, and matches. She was an All-ACC honoree three times, including First Team nods in her junior and senior seasons when she also served as team captain.  Lantagne Welch was named to the ACC's 50thAnniversary Team for the 1990s.  As a high school athlete in Encinitas, she gained an AAA beach rating.

Lantagne Welch grew up in a family where volleyball was a major part of their livelihood. Her parents, Joe and JoAnn, owned and operated a highly regarded volleyball scouting service that evaluated high school players, covering the regions of California, Nevada and Arizona. Lantagne Welch's sister, Jenelle Duvall, was an All-American at the University of Pittsburgh and served as an assistant coach at Northern Arizona and Northern Illinois. She also served as head coach at Metro State College of Denver.

Lantagne Welch also had a connection with UCSB even before becoming its head volleyball coach: her late grandfather Joseph coached the Gaucho baseball team in 1949 and was a longtime professor in the Department of Health and Physical Education.  He served as the chair of the department from 1956-62 and 1965-66.  He retired in 1974 as a Professor Emeritus.

In 2002, she married Wesley Paul Welch of Denver City, Texas, in her hometown of Encinitas, Calif. On Dec. 7, 2004, the couple celebrated the birth of their daughter, Riley Jaye and on April 8, 2007, son Ayden Fletcher was born. 

Lantagne Welch takes over the program from the legendary Kathy Gregory, who retired in January after a tremendous 38-year career that saw Gaucho teams amass 882 wins and 27 appearances in the NCAA Tournament - including the first 26 in a row.  Gregory's teams also advanced to three Elite Eights and two other Sweet 16s.

Lantagne Welch is the second sitting head coach hired by UCSB in the past year, joining six-time Western Athletic Conference Coach of the Year Simon Thibodeau who joined the Gaucho women's tennis program after nine years at Fresno State.