The road ahead for the UCSB men’s water polo team has a couple of bumps in it. A couple of very big bumps.

The Gauchos square off against national powers Long Beach State and Irvine in the Northern California Tournament this weekend at the University of California, Berkeley.

If it seems that the Gauchos are always crossing paths against tough competition, one only needs to look at the competitiveness of their conference, the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. Each of the top five teams in the nation along with the seventh, eighth and twelfth ranked teams reside in the MPSF. That puts the Gauchos, currently at No. 12, in elite company.

The 49ers are ranked eighth in the nation and the Anteaters are ranked fourth. Both games will be true tests for Santa Barbara, who will be looking for its first winning season since 1993.

LBSU is only 6-7 on the year, but the 49ers are coming off a 19-0 thrashing of Occidental on Sunday. The Beach also handed Cal Baptist an 11-9 loss over the weekend.

The going will only get tougher as the Gauchos face Irvine, a red-hot team coming off a 9-7 win over Pepperdine last week. The Waves went on to defeat top-ranked Stanford, legitimizing the Anteaters’ ranking.

The high-powered Anteaters, who are 6-2 on the season, are led by senior Jeff Powers, who has 23 goals over the first eight games.

The Gauchos, who are 3-5 through their first eight games, fell to the aforementioned Pepperdine team 9-1 in their first game of the year.