The UCSB women’s volleyball team is bringing in a top-25 recruiting class for the 2020 season.
The six freshmen recruits include four outside hitters, a middle blocker and a libero. They are Briana McKnight of Xavier College Prep in Scottsdale, Ariz., Michelle Ohwobete of Oakland’s Bishop O’Dowd, Haley Schroeder of Beckman High in Tustin, Abrielle Bross of South Lake Tahoe, Nia Correal of El Cerrito High, and Camryn Jones of Mira Costa in Manhattan Beach.
The class was ranked in the top 25 by the social media site VolleyHigh.
“We are very excited about our 2020 Class and how they will complement our returning team,” UCSB 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.”
Correal, a 6-foot-4 middle from El Cerrito High in the Bay Area, is the tallest member of the freshman class.
“Nia brings much needed height to our roster that you simply can’t teach,” said Lantagne Welch. “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.
Correal played all the hitting positions for El Cerrito and earned all-leaguer honors as a senior.
Bross is a 6-1 outside hitter from South Lake Tahoe. She pounded 400 kills, hit .552 and picked up 299 digs in her season season. She earned All-State honors and was named to Prep Volleyball’s Top 150 Senior Aces list.
“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-foot, 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.”
McKnight, a 5-10 outside hitter from, Scottsdale, Ariz., led her Xavier College Prep team to back-to-back state championships in 2017 and 2018 and earned state tournament honors all four years of high school. In her senior year, she blasted 500 kills in 115 sets for an impressive 4.35 kills-per-set average. She also had 350 digs and 35 service aces. She was named a Prep Volleyball All-American Honorable Mention and was on the Prep Volleyball 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.”
Ohwobete was a Prep Volleyball Top 100 Seniors Ace and a honorable mention All-American at Bishop O’Dowd. The 5-10 outside hitter led her team to three straight league titles and she earned back-to-back Cal-Hi Sports North Coast Section Player of the Year awards. In her sophomore year, she was named the MaxPreps Player of the Year.
“Michelle is not afraid of pressure and has demonstrated that to us as she has had to carry the load for her club team,” said Lantagne Welch. “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.”
The 6-1 Schroeder blasted 406 digs, had 147 digs and 54 blocks in her senior season to lead Beckman to a second straight Pacific Coast League championship. She was named the league MVP. Her best performance was slamming 32 kills, with three blocks and three aces in a win over Woodbridge.
Schroeder has also been honored for her work in the classroom. She was named the Female Scholar Athlete of the Year in the Pacific Coast League and at Beckman High.
“Haley brings all important intangibles of effort, engagement and energy to our program. Then you add the fact that she is a tall pin hitter who has a hammer of an arm,” Lantagne Welch said. “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 5-8 Jones was a solid-passing outside hitter at perennial CIF-SS Division 1 power Mira Costa. She helped the Mustangs reach three CIF Regional Tournaments and the State Tournament in 2019.
“Camryn has been a ball-control outside most of her career, but she will transition to a libero here at UCSB,” Lantagne Welch said. “She is a dynamic athlete that has the ability to cover a lot of ground. 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.”
UCSB is coming off a solid season, going 23-6 and reaching the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Gauchos pushed No. 2-seeded Texas to five sets before falling in the second-round match in Austin.