UCSB women’s volleyball changes leadership as Welch retires and Jones is promoted
UC SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - After 29 years of coaching women's volleyball, Nicole Lantange Welch will retire from her position as the head coach of the UC Santa Barbara Women's Volleyball program. In her place, current Associate Head Coach Matt Jones will take over as the new head coach of the Gauchos, Director of Athletics Kelly Barsky announced today.
"I would like to thank Nicole for her remarkable leadership and service to student athletes, women's volleyball at the campus and national level and women in sport," Barsky said. "I have such admiration for her and recognition of the tremendous accomplishments during her tenure by our Gaucho women's volleyball program on and off the court. We will miss her on the sideline but celebrate her in retirement and look forward to still seeing her at lots of Gaucho events."
"It is with great excitement that I announce Matt Jones as the next UC Santa Barbara Women's Volleyball head coach," Barsky said. "Matt was being highly recruited to a variety of institutions this off season, and to be able to retain and elevate Matt to continue serving our department, campus and community in the head coaching role is an honor. He is committed to the holistic development of student athletes, engagement with our community and will continue to grow the legacy of success in the women's volleyball program on and off the court."
Welch had a successful career with the Gauchos, serving as the head coach for 10 years. Over the course of her time in Santa Barbara, she has amassed a 144-116 record, which equates to a .554 win percentage. Her recruiting classes have been ranked highly including four in the Top 30, which helps with her successful seasons in The Big West. Along with that, Welch's teams have found success in the classroom, with all nine of her teams earning American Volleyball Coaches Association's All-Academic Team accolades. Prior to her time in Santa Barbara, Welch coached for 13 seasons at the University of Miami, putting the program on the map and bringing it to the prominence it is known for today. She started with the Hurricanes in 2000, putting together the program with its first season of competition in 2001 when her team went 17-7. Over the course of her entire career, Welch secured 387 wins with only 216 losses for a .621 win percentage. Prior to her stops as a head coach, Welch was an assistant at Texas A&M, Ohio University and her alma mater, Maryland.
"After 29 years of collegiate coaching including the last decade for our beloved Gauchos, I have decided to retire from coaching," Welch said. "While much of my focus and time will now be moved to my family, I will take with me unbelievable memories, growth and relationships. Having family connections to UCSB and Santa Barbara, it had always been a dream of mine to coach for the Gauchos and give my everything to this storied program. I couldn't be more thrilled and proud to pass off the reins to Matt Jones. Matt has been a huge part of the success of the past six years and has taken on more responsibilities each year he has been here. He is ready for this special moment and I look forward to seeing the program flourish under his leadership."
With Welch's retirement, Jones steps into this new role after working with the program as the associate head coach for the program since April 2017 while also helping with the team's recruiting efforts. His work with the team pushed the Gauchos to three consecutive 20+ win seasons while also being named to the AVCA Thirty Under 30 list. Prior to coaching with the Gauchos, Jones went back to his alma mater, Harvard, where he was an assistant coach for both the men's and women's programs for one season. His collegiate coaching career kicked off in Santa Barbara at City College when he was the head coach for the Vaqueros for three seasons. Jones also had an extensive club coaching career after playing professionally in Luxembourg for one season. As mentioned previously, Jones played collegiately at Harvard all four years, serving as the team's captain for two. He was also an All-EIVA selection as an outside hitter.
"First and foremost, a very big thank you to Head Coach Nicole Lantagne Welch for giving me the opportunity to grow as an assistant coach in this program and now for supporting me to carry on the UC Santa Barbara Women's volleyball legacy built by both her and Kathy Gregory before her," Jones said. "I also want to thank Director of Athletics Kelly Barsky for entrusting me with this amazing responsibility. I am honored to take over as the head coach of this program and I am excited for the challenge to elevate us into the upper echelon of collegiate women's volleyball. We will uphold a standard of excellence in the classroom, on the court and in the community. My expectant wife, Alyssa, and I love both UCSB and Santa Barbara and we look forward to building our family within this greater Gaucho Family. Go Gauchos!"
The Gauchos finished the 2022 season in second place in The Big West with a 16-4 conference record. The team will prepare to kick off the spring season with a schedule to be released in the coming weeks.
(Article courtesy of UCSB Athletics)