Coaching is an integral aspect of every sport. When people talk about the top University of Miami coaches, Larry Coker and Jim Morris are usually the first names mentioned. There is no doubt that they are great coaches, but there is another name that deserves recognition: Nicole Lantagne Welch of the women’s volleyball program.
Lantagne Welch was brought to Miami two years ago to revitalize volleyball as a top UM sport. In her first two seasons, Lantagne Welch has accumulated a record of 44-12. Last season, Lantagne Welch led the ‘Canes to their first ever NCAA Tournament berth and a Sweet 16 appearance. The ‘Canes finished last season No. 23 in the nation.
Lantagne Welch has also recruited brilliantly. Marcela Gamarra, who graduated last season, was a key contributor for the ‘Canes and helped UM get their program going. Last season the ‘Canes also had their first ever Big East Player of the Year in Valeria Tipiana and their first Setter of the Year in Mallorey James. Both of these girls still have two years of eligibility left, which will make the ‘Canes an even better team this season. Overall, the Hurricanes had three first team All-Big East players last season, and they return a very talented cast for this season.
The volleyball team was very young every season under Lantagne Welch. The team boasts just one senior again this season, after having just one senior last season in Gamarra. It is hard to win in any college sport, let alone with mostly freshmen and sophomores, but that is exactly what Lantagne Welch has done the past two seasons.
Lantagne Welch was selected as the American Volleyball Coaches Association Regional Coach of the Year last season, which shows how much respect she has earned nationally.
Lantagne Welch is a successful coach because she knows the game of volleyball so well. She played four years at the University of Maryland as a setter, and left the school as their All-Time leader in assists, digs, and matches played. These records show that not only was Lantagne Welch a great player, but she has successfully translated her success to coaching.
Her first coaching job was in 1994 as an assistant coach for Maryland, before becoming a graduate assistant coach at Ohio University in 1995. At Ohio University, she earned a master’s degree in Athletic Administration, until she moved on to Texas A&M where she served as an assistant coach for three seasons. Texas A&M finished in the top twenty every year while she was there, including a No. 9 finish in 1999.
Finally, Lantagne Welch has gotten the opportunity to run the show at the University of Miami. The ‘Canes couldn’t have made a better choice, either. Not only has she had success on the court, but she also recruits players with character as well as talent. Every player on Lantagne Welch’s team is friendly, approachable, and hard working. I guess they learned that from their coach, who has been the epitome of class her entire life.
So when people talk about the best coaches at the University of Miami, it is obvious to mention Coker and Morris. However, let’s not forget about Lantagne Welch, who has done a brilliant job with the volleyball program so far.