If you’re looking for a break from the winter weather, you might consider going to the 38th Annual Elephant Bar Invitational this weekend at the Thunderdome, where the UCSB men’s volleyball team is just getting warmed up.

After sweeping through the competition at the Millie Severson Tournament last weekend at Malibu, Santa Barbara captured the title by winning all three of their matches. The Gauchos will be looking to build on their momentum starting this morning at 9. A good outing this weekend at the Elephant Bar Invitational should translate to even greater success with the start of conference play.

“What we want out of [The Elephant Bar Invitational] is preparation and to play better together,” senior outside hitter Andy Rivera said. “This is just the beginning. We have a long, hard season ahead of us.”

Competition will without a doubt be tough this season in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, with juggernauts like Stanford, USC, and Pacific roaming the net. Santa Barbara, however, is optimistic on its chances for success. UCSB started the year strong last weekend with quality wins at the Millie Severson Tournament. The Gaucho offense was especially effective.

In the final game of the tournament against Pepperdine, four different Gauchos registered double-digit kills. Rivera led the team with 15 kills and senior opposite Ben Koski tallied 14 kills. Junior outside hitter Keith Busam had a career-high 11 kills and junior middle blocker Anders Bengtsson registered 10 kills.

“The defense was pretty good and our passing was good too,” Bengtsson said. “But our offense was really strong.”

Defensively for the Gauchos, redshirt freshman libero Aaron Mansfield recorded 14 digs. Senior setter Britt Galang tallied 50 assists.

“Our defense and passing starts everything for us,” Mansfield said. “We want to start strong and stay consistent.”

With their offense potent, their passing crisp and their defense strong, the Gauchos should be clicking on all cylinders at the Elephant Bar Invitational this weekend. Last year, this same tournament helped Santa Barbara to start the season with a great deal of confidence. The Gauchos recorded wins against perennial power UCLA, among other teams. Yet, UCSB was unable to carry its momentum deep into the season.

This year, the competition will not be as strong, but the significance of the tournament has not decreased for UCSB. Santa Barbara hopes to build on their confidence with a good performance this weekend that will translate into wins deeper into the season.

“[The Elephant Bar Invitational] will give us a chance to try out lineups, and help us play even better offensively and to gear up our defense,” Bengtsson said. “We always want to win at home. We started out real strong last year and we want to again this year, but we want to keep playing well far into the season.”