Gauchos Announce 2017 Recruiting Class

Nicole Lantagne Welch
Nicole Lantagne Welch

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – The UCSB women's volleyball team has announced four standout athletes to the 2017 freshman class, head coach Nicole Lantagne Welch commented on Monday.

California natives Amanda Serex (Saint Francis HS), Nicole Omwanghe (Claremont HS), Kobie Jimenez (Ventura HS) and Kjia Rivers (Del Norte HS) will all be joining the team heading into this year's fall season.

"We are very excited to welcome our 2017 class. We clearly are addressing our needs since our only two seniors were middle blockers," Lantagne Welch said. "Not only are we adding three middles that have great potential that give us depth and flexibility, we are also adding a fantastic libero in Kobie."

Standing at 6-1, Amanda Serex will join the Gauchos following a stellar career at Saint Francis High School in Mountain View, Calif. Playing as a middle, Serex is coming off four years of varsity play in the West Coast Athletic League.

In 2016, she put up efficient marks with a .488 hitting percentage and .578 kill percentage on her way to First Team All-WCAL honors. While helping lead her team to four consecutive CCS postseason appearances, Serex was also a member of club volleyball teams Encore and Vision from 14's-17's, making it to nationals in the open division four straight years.

"Amanda is quick on the ball as an attacker, which helps her ability to score. She has a great deal of high level experience and is a hard worker," Lantagne Welch said. "She is the type of player that always finds a way to help her team."

Arriving from Claremont High School, Nicole Omwanghe is another player that will help the Gauchos at the net. As a senior, the 6-2 middle blocker captained her team to a 2016 league championship, making it as far as the CIF semifinals.

Over the course of her career, Omwanghe totaled 102 solo blocks, 141 total blocks and 161 kills. In each of her final two years at Claremont, she was named Athletic All-League Second Team and earned an All-League Academic Award.

Omwanghe also played for Forza1 North Volleyball 18's during her junior and senior years. In 2016, her team finished with a No. 11 ranking in the Southern California Volleyball Association 18's.

"Nicole has size and physicality to really grow into becoming a great middle.  She has a natural instinct for blocking and a great amount of potential to impact the college game once she gets acclimated," Lantagne Welch said.

Ventura High School product Kobie Jimenez will join the team as a libero following an outstanding high school career which saw her make the All Channel-League team in each of the past three years. She is coming off a senior year in which she averaged 4.5 digs per set, totaling 490 digs and 35 aces in 109 sets played.

Jimenez brings to the table an impressive resume, having been named to a handful of All-Tournament Teams and earning three All-Channel League First Team selections, two All-County Second Teams, and a CIF First Team honor.

She ends her career at Ventura High School with the school record for digs in a season (490). That mark ranked first in the league and second in the county. Her 2016 team went on to become the champions of the Channel League, CIF Division 2, the Santa Barbara T.O.C., and the SLO Invitational.

Jimenez also played club volleyball for a number of teams, including S.G. Elite Roshambo 18's, LAVA South 17's and 18's, LAVA West 16's, Cal. Heat 15's and SBVC 14's.

"Kobie has played a ton of volleyball in her life and it shows in her game. Her reading skills are excellent and she adds a confident calmness to the back court that raises the level of those around her," Lantagne Welch said.

Kjia Rivers rounds out the Gauchos' incoming crew of players at the net, after three years in the Avocado East League and one year in the Palomares League as a senior at Del Norte High School. The 6-0 middle blocker joins the Gauchos after leading both her team and her league in blocks in both her junior and senior seasons, averaging 123 blocks per year.

Rivers also recorded the highest hitting percentage (.363) in the league in her senior season. She helped lead her team to three straight league championships and CIF appearances, including an appearance in the second round of State in 2016. In the first round, she had one of her most memorable performances to date, tallying 11 kills and six blocks as Del Norte came back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Lake Elsinore 17-15 in the fifth and final set.

The San Diego native was also named to the Union Tribune All-Academic Team and Del Norte Scholar Athlete in 2015.

"Kjia is an exceptional athlete.  She is rapidly improving the more she plays.  Her speed, length and jumping ability on the court will translate well into a middle that can close blocks in both directions and transition fast to score."

The Gauchos' incoming freshmen make up a recruiting class that was given an Honorable Mention by PrepVolleyball on Monday, which ranks the top 30 recruiting classes in the nation.