The UCSB women’s volleyball program, fresh off its first NCAA Tournament victory in 15 years, is adding a talented group of freshmen for next season.
The six high school stars who have committed to play for the Gauchos have been ranked as the No. 25 recruiting class in the country by VolleyHigh and No. 39 by PrepVolley.
“We are very excited about our 2020 Class and how they will complement our returning team,” coach Nicole Lantagne Welch said. “We have been able to address key needs in terms of both position and skill set.
“There is a large amount of both ball control and volleyball IQ in this group along with the type of athleticism that we know will thrive in our system.”
The newest Gauchos include four outside-hitters, a middle blocker, and a libero.
Abrielle Bross, a 6-foot-1 outside hitter from South Lake Tahoe, will help replace four-time All-America outside hitter Lindsey Ruddins. She made First-Team All-State for California and was picked to Prep Volleyball’s Top 150 Senior Aces List after setting a school record in hitting percentage (.552). She notched 400 kills and 299 digs.
Her vertical jump was also the best ever recorded at South Lake Tahoe.
“Abrielle combines superior jumping ability with a live arm that makes her a physical threat from either pin,” Lantagne Welch said. “In a year when we lose the one player who touched 10 feet, 6 inches, it’s nice to bring someone in right away who will have the ability to potentially attack from that height.
“Abrielle has a huge upside and we are excited to see her embrace coaching to quickly adapt to the college game.”
The tallest recruit is 6-4 Nia Correal, a middle blocker from El Cerrito High. She played all three front-line positions in high school and was selected to the Prep Volleyball Shine List.
“Nia brings much needed height to our roster that you simply can’t teach,” Lantagne Welch said. “She will be the tallest player on our team from day one.
“On top of that, she moves well for her size and her ability to improve quickly has really stood out to us. A past dual-sport athlete, we look forward to Nia continuing that improvement in our gym and soaking up every bit of experience she can to bring her strong blocking presence and attacking ability to the floor as a Gaucho.”
Camryn Jones, a 5-8 outside hitter at Mira Costa High, was recruited to UCSB to play libero. She led her school to three CIF Regional berths as well as to last year’s CIF State Tournament.
“She is a dynamic athlete that has the ability to cover a lot of ground,” Lantagne Welch said. “Her passing, ball handling skills, adaptability, and jump serve brings a great skill set to our libero group.
“Camryn is a competitor and we look forward to her bringing that fire to our gym.”
Briana McKnight, a 5-10 outside hitter, led Scottsdale’s Xavier College Prep to back-to-back Arizona State championships in 2017 and 2018, as well as to four-straight state berths. She made the All-State Team and was nominated for Arizona High School Athlete of the Year after recording 500 kills in 115 sets (4.35 per set) to go with 350 digs and 35 aces.
She received honorable mention on the Prep Volleyball All-America Team and was listed on the Top 100 Senior Aces list.
“Bri is an experienced, true six-rotation outside hitter that our tempo of offense is looking for,” Lantagne Welch said. “She combines great passing, along with speed, athleticism, and a strong step close to score in our fast offense.
“Her high level playing experiences in both high school and club have aided her volleyball IQ and will help ease her transition to the college level.”
Michelle Ohwobete, a 5-10 outside hitter from Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd High, gives the Gauchos another strong arm. She was twice named as the Cal-Hi NCS Volleyball Player of the Year and received Prep Volleyball All-America honors. She was also listed among the Top 100 Senior Aces.
“Michelle is not afraid of pressure and has demonstrated that to us as she has had to carry the load for her club team,” Lantagne Welch said. “We’ve watched her essentially win sets by herself at times and her ability to point-score as a physical attacker is very exciting.
“She is another outside who will thrive in our fast offense as she is very dynamic both vertically and laterally. We are excited to see her ability to transition to this level as a six-rotation player.”
Also signing with the Gauchos is Haley Schroeder, a 6-1 outside hitter from Tustin’s Beckman High. She won Pacific Coast League MVP honors last fall while recording 406 kills, 147 digs and 54 blocks. Beckman won league championships the last two years and made CIF playoff appearances in each of Schroeder’s four seasons.
She was selected as the Female Scholar-Athlete of the Year for both her high school and the Pacific Coast League.
“Haley brings all important intangibles of effort, engagement and energy to our program,” Lantagne Welch said. “Then you add the fact that she is a tall pin hitter who has a hammer of an arm.
“She has shown that she will be able to be effective attacking from the left or the right and blocking comes very natural to her. She has six-rotation potential and we have already seen her make strides in her serve receive and she will no doubt work extremely hard to develop that further.”
The Gauchos are coming off a 23-6 season in which they nearly upset second-ranked Texas in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, dropping a 3-2 thriller in Austin.