After capturing the Millie Severson Tournament last weekend, the UCSB men’s volleyball team went into this weekend’s 38th annual Elephant Bar Invitational with high hopes and plenty of confidence.
The Gauchos finished the E-Bar Invite in second place after losing to Arizona in the finals, a close five-set match. The top-seeded Gauchos defeated Utah and William Woods to earn a place in the championship match. Senior setter Britt Galang and senior opposite hitter Ben Koski received spots on the All-Tournament team for their contribution to Santa Barbara. The final match of the tournament could have gone to either team, and was decided in the final set, which the Wildcats won 17-15.
“We had a easy road to the final, and it could have gone either way,” freshman libero Aaron Mansfield said. “We just couldn’t find a way to win.”
Last year’s E-Bar Invite was more competitive than this year’s event, according to senior outside hitter Andy Rivera. While scheduling conflicts excluded several top programs, Rivera felt the tournament was a good experience for the Gauchos.
Although Santa Barbara obviously would have liked to win the tournament, the team officially remains undefeated because none of the matches count on their record. The tourney was considered a competitive scrimmage because club teams participated in the event.
“We did some things pretty well, and a couple of things we could have done a lot better on,” Rivera said. “We tried a lot of new things out that we can us during the season.”
Three separate teams represented the Gauchos: the A-squad, the B-squad and the club team. The A-squad and the B-squad featured players from the Division I team. The club team, which finished third out of the 16 teams, features none of the Division I athletes.
According to Rivera, the Gauchos are confident that the tourney will act as a springboard to the rest of their season against the rugged Mountain Pacific Sports Federation programs, which include Stanford, USC, BYU and UCLA.
“I feel good about the season.” Rivera said. “If we play up to our potential we can definitely compete for the national championship.”
This year’s squad is more confident and mature than last year’s team.
“We are the same team this year, just a year older,” Rivera said. “We are more confident.”