Becoming the head coach of the UCSB women's volleyball team was a dream come true for Nicole Lantagne Welch. She grew up down the coast in Encinitas and spent most of her childhood vacations visiting her family in Santa Barbara. Her hiring in February brought Lantagne Welch back home to reestablish UCSB as one of the premier programs in the NCAA. This week, we asked Lantagne Welch about her transition in becoming UCSB's newest head coach while establishing her life in a place she called her home away from home as child.
Season tickets for Lantange Welch's first season at the helm are now available by calling 805 893-UCSB (8272) or by going online. Family Plans of five season tickets- two adults and three GKids- can also be purchased for $100. Adult tickets will receive the commemorative UCSB Volleyball long sleeved shirt with purchase and GKids will receive the 2013 GKids t-shirt.
Each season ticket holder will have access to the Founders Room for light pregame refreshments.
Why did you consider the UCSB head coaching position a dream job?
Well, growing up in southern California my parents were both born and raised here. My grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins lived here. I spent every holiday I can remember up in Santa Barbara. I always looked at it as my second home growing up. It's also a place I can see myself living for the rest of my life. Those things, combined with a program that can be very successful on the court –which is extremely important to me– make it a dream job.
After playing and coaching volleyball away from California for most of your life, how does it feel to be back in California with your family?
It feels right. It feels like I'm home and it was meant to be. It's very exciting to have family around for everything. They're looking forward to the season as well. I know this is going to be really special for my family.
You mentioned the success that the women's volleyball program has had, which includes 27 NCAA Tournament appearances. Is it possible to reestablish UCSB as one of the top programs in the country?
Absolutely. There's no question in my mind that that's the direction we're heading. We're taking everything one step at a time, but we're also looking forward to being that program that is year in and year out in the NCAAs, vying for the top-25 and competing for conference championships. Those are the plans for the program.
You established an NCAA contender in Miami. You made four straight NCAA appearances to finish your tenure with the Hurricanes and even made it to the Sweet Sixteen in just your second year at the helm. What's the key to making consecutive NCAA appearances?
You have to get your recruiting to a certain level where instead of rebuilding you're reloading year in and year out. Also having experienced players in your program, so even if they weren't starters the year before, they are ready to step up and take those roles on. It's a combination of a lot of things, but generally you have to be able to reload and not rebuild so recruiting is a big key in that.
One of the biggest challenges in coming to a new university is figuring out your conference opponents. How do you plan on overcoming that obstacle?
We'll look at some tape on the different teams and learn as we go. Just like the players are getting better each time they play, the staff will get better at figuring out our opponents and learning the tendencies of our conference opponents. At the same time, we may not be as familiar with them, but they won't be familiar with our style of play that we'll be bringing to our team. It's going be a little bit of a chess game back-and-forth in trying to figure that stuff out, but it's a challenge that we're all looking forward to.
You've only been here for a number of months, but are you feeling like a Gaucho yet?
Oh yes, of course I'm feeling like a Gaucho! I'm home now and I'm eager to get the season started.
Check back here at UCSBGauchos.com for more Meet Nicole Interviews leading up to the season opener on Aug. 30 against no. 3 Stanford in the Thunderdome.
To read past editions of Meet Nicole, click here.