SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – UC Santa Barbara head women's volleyball coach Nicole Lantagne Welch announced the program's 2019 recruiting class on Tuesday, officially welcoming seven standout student-athletes who will be eligible to suit up this fall.
For the second straight year, Lantagne Welch brings in the largest group of incoming recruits she has ever brought to UCSB. Seven new faces will be set to take the Thunderdome floor for the Gauchos' next season, including a talented array of All-League selections and team MVPs, school record-setters, and a pair of Under Armour All-Americans. Among the seven are two pin hitters, two setters, two middle blockers, and one libero.
"The 2019 class is seven strong and expected to make a great impact to our ascending volleyball program," said head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch. "We have added depth at all positions and it is quite possibly the most athletic class we have brought in. It is a fun, energetic, hard working and highly competitive group that will push us to be better every day."
Dynamic outside hitter and Highland, Utah native Tasia Farmer joins UCSB following a senior season at Lone Peak High School which saw her take home Second Team All-American honors. Included among her myriad of other accolades are multiple All-Valley and First Team All-State selections, a Region IV MVP, and three Region and State championships. She was also named Utah's Ms. Volleyball and Gatorade Player of the Year. Competing for Club V Volleyball, she helped lead her team to first place at the Colorado Crossroads (18s) and as high as a 16th-place finish at Nationals, earning recognition as a Shining Star.
"Tasia is a great outside hitter for our system. She is an explosive athlete that can attack fast-paced sets on either side of the court or out of the back row, and she has the all around game that is so important to her position. Her athleticism, experience and confidence will help her to compete to make an early impact." – Lantagne Welch
Also providing depth to UCSB's increasingly skilled pin hitter bunch is El Toro High School's Sophie Messinger. Another three-time First Team All-Leaguer and senior year MVP, Messinger has earned recognition on a handful of lists, including the Class of 2019 AVCA Phenom List and PrepVolleyball Watch List, and the Ultra Ankle JVA Watch List. She also earned Scholar Athlete honors in all four years and was given the El Toro Female Student Athlete of Character award from the Orange County Athletic Director's Association for her accomplishments as a leader both on and off the court.
"Sophie is a natural leader on and off the court. Her determination and ability to earn the respect of others will be a great addition to our team culture. She is a true 6-rotation player who has both great ball control and an explosive jump." – Lantagne Welch
All-American Honorable Mention Kristina Pepek joins the Gauchos out of Huntington Beach, Calif. After a stellar final year at Mater Dei in which she set personal-bests with 266 kills and a .493 hitting percentage, the middle blocker ends her high school career with the most efficient hitting percentage in school history. Pepek averaged at least 2.1 blocks per match in each of the last three years, recording a career-high 97 in 2018. She is a three-time league and CIF champion, a PrepVolleyball Senior Ace, and spent time competing for volleyball clubs Momentous, Tstreet and Seal Beach.
"Tina brings ever important quickness to the middle position. She will fit right in with our zero tempo middle attacks by being up early and using her fast arm to score. She also has great lateral speed that will allow her to close blocks and be available in transition." – Lantagne Welch
Culver City High's Megan Shimoda is a fantastic athlete who can both set and hit, and should provide the team with improved depth with her ability to play multiple positions. She tallied over 1,000 assists and 600 kills for the Centaurs, earning League MVP in 2018 and All-CIF and Ocean League First Team honors while helping her team to three straight Ocean League championships. Shimoda also made the Blue Honor Roll in all four years and played for clubs Culver and Actyve.
"Megan is a great all-around volleyball player, who literally can do it all. She fills so many roles to help her team and we look to have her use this versatility along with her dynamic athleticism as a Gaucho. She can hit, block, set and ball control. She is a competitor and that type of player who gets everyone working hard around her." – Lantagne Welch
Romoni Vivao will be joining UCSB as a setter after leading the Lakewood High offense for four seasons. The Long Beach, Calif. native was a four-time All-League First Team pick, also earning league MVP honors as a senior. She has spent the last eight years with club Mizuno Long Beach following a short stint with South Bay Starlings.
"Moni is a smart competitor that commands the offense at a high level. She makes her hitters jobs easier by finding their best attacking windows while being able to set multiple tempos. She is a strong defender and has a great setter's court demeanor." – Lantagne Welch
Joining the Gauchos' middle blocking core is Deni Wilson out of Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, Calif. Wilson registered 289 kills (3.21 K/S) on a .415 hitting percentage to go along with 93 blocks (1.0 B/S) and 27 aces during her senior year. She claimed three consecutive First Team All-League nods and was her team's MVP after leading the way in several offensive categories. While playing for volleyball club San Gabriel Elite, Wilson and her team just won the Pacific Northwest Qualifier and recently won third-place at Nationals. Wilson was also named Notre Dame's Athlete of the Year.
"Deni brings great fire to the court and we look forward to seeing that in our gym on a daily basis. Not only does she have the arm to score with authority, but she is a strong blocker as well being an ever important middle that can produce on both sides of the ball." – Lantagne Welch
Last but not least, libero Lauren Winters hails from Kentfield, Calif. During her time at The Branson School, Winters averaged a league-high 11.6 digs per match as a senior, recording 326 digs and 41 service aces in total. Her efforts helped lead her to First Team All-League recognition and helped carry her team to a 2015 D5 State Championship, and two North Coast Section championships
"Lauren is longer than most at libero and we love the amount of court she has the ability to cover both in serve receive and on defense. She also has a steady mentality and a maturity that will serve her well in her transition to the collegiate game." – Lantagne Welch
A recent poll ranked UCSB's recruiting class at No. 31 in the country out of 336 teams.
UCSB Women's Volleyball 2019 Recruiting Class
|Name||Position||Prev. School||Hometown||Key Accolade/Stat|
|Tasia Farmer||OH||Lone Peak High School||Highland, Utah||2nd Team All-American|
|Sophie Messinger||OH||El Toro High School||Lake Forest, Calif.||Class of 2019 AVCA Phenom List|
|Kristina Pepek||MB||Mater Dei High School||Huntington Beach, Calif.||#1 Career Hit% in school history|
|Megan Shimoda||S/Opp||Culver City High School||Culver City, Calif.||Over 1000 asts & 600 kills|
|Romoni Vivao||S||Lakewood High School||Long Beach, Calif.||4x All-League First Team|
|Deni Wilson||MB||Notre Dame High School||Los Angeles, Calif.||Team MVP as a senior|
|Lauren Winters||L||The Branson School||Kentfield, Calif.||League-High 11.6 digs/match|