WVB: UCSB hires Miami’s Lantagne Welch to replace Gregory

UCSB didn’t take long in hiring a replacement for the legendary women’s volleyball coach Kathy Gregory.

Nicole Lantagne Welch, the coach at the University of Miami, has agreed to take over the Gaucho program, UCSB Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Mark W. Massari confirmed Wednesday.

Nicole Lantagne Welch is UCSB's new women's volleyball coach.

Nicole Lantagne Welch is UCSB’s new women’s volleyball coach.

Gregory retired in January after a 38-year career.

A native of Encinitas, Calif., Lantagne Welch will be introduced at a Feb. 14 press conference/meet-the-coach event in the UCSB Intercollegiate Athletics Building on campus.

She spent the last 12 years as the head coach at Miami, where she guided the program to 243 wins, five NCAA Tournament appearances – including the last four in a row – and the Sweet 16 in just her second season.

In 2012, the Hurricanes were 25-6 overall and 17-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Following the season, she was named ACC and AVCA/East Region Coach of the Year.

One of her assistant coaches at Miami is former Gaucho Lee Nelson.

Nelson told Presidio Sports he expects Lantagne Welch to build on the success Gregory had at UCSB.

“Nicole has done a great job here at Miami with what had been a defunct program,” he said in an email. “She’s produced a number of All-Americans, consistently made the NCAA Tournament, compiled a very high graduation rate for her student-athletes, and I expect she’ll build on the rich legacy of volleyball at UCSB while putting her own successful stamp on the program.”

Nelson said he isn’t sure if he’ll be part of Lantagne Welch’s staff in Santa Barbara.

Lantagne Welch is from a volleyball family. 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. Her 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 played at the University of Maryland from 1990-1993. In her role as a four-year starting setter, she guided the Terrapins to their first-ever Atlantic Coast Conference Championship (ACC) title and an automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament in 1990. As a top collegiate setter, Lantagne Welch garnered First Team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors in 1992 and ’93, and earned Second Team All-ACC accolades in 1991. She would also be named AVCA National Player of the Week (Oct. 12, 1993) following an upset victory over Florida State.

Serving as a team captain through her final two seasons, Lantagne Welch finished her outstanding collegiate career as Maryland’s all-time assists, digs and matches played leader.

She graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Marketing. For her accomplishments as a student-athlete, Lantagne Welch was named to the Atlantic Coast Conference 50th Anniversary Volleyball Team along with five other Terrapins from teams of the 1990s.

Lantagne Welch began her coaching career in 1994 as an assistant coach on the Maryland staff before becoming a graduate assistant coach at Ohio University in 1995. She arrived at Miami after serving as an assistant coach at Texas A&M.

Lantagne Welch is married to Wesley Paul Welch. They have two children, daughter, Riley Jaye, 8, and son, Ayden Fletcher, 5.

Nelson believes Lantagne Welch will have UCSB back in the hunt for the Big West title right away.

“I think in short order she’ll have the Lady Gauchos competing for Big West Championships and beyond, and I wish her and her future players the best of luck.”

UCSB Deputy Athletics Director Diane O’Brien and Gregory assisted on the search for the new coach.