Dinos will invade Rob Gym tonight at 7:05 p.m.; try not to panic. Hold your loved ones close and try to remember that these massive creatures are just volleyball-playing Canadians.

The Gauchos will open their season tonight when they take on the University of Calgary in a warm-up match for this weekend’s tournament, the Elephant Bar Invitational.

“Any time a Canadian team comes through, we want to play them because it’s a freebie for us,” UCSB Head Coach Ken Preston said. “[This game] doesn’t count on our record.”

It doesn’t seem logical that the words “Canada” and “warm-up” go together, but tonight they will have to as the Gauchos get their first home game under their belt without penalty. Win or lose, UCSB will enter the weekend’s matches unscathed on their official record.

This freedom puts the focus on preparation for the upcoming season rather than the starting the season with a “W” at all costs.

“We trained all fall for six weeks and the matches are the fun parts,” Preston said. “It’ll be exciting for the kids to suit up and play at home; we went on the road all fall.”

Unlike a regular season match, adjustments to the Dinos will be made during the game, not beforehand, due to a lack of knowledge about tonight’s opponent.

“I don’t know anything about the [University of Calgary]; we don’t have a game plan,” Preston said. “[But] they have a good volleyball tradition and they tend to play pretty well.”

Even without much of an idea of Calgary’s strength on the court, their Dino-like size has not escaped the Gauchos’ awareness. The Dinos boast five players standing 6’6″ or above.

“Canadian teams in general are bigger teams; big, slow teams in general,” senior outside hitter Nate Wack said.

UCSB will counter with eight of their own standing 6’6″ or above.

In the Gauchos’ first week back after a lengthy winter solstice, a warm-up match will be invaluable [[valuable]] in getting back to the game shape reached during fall training.

“It was a tough first day, just getting the rust out and more of the rust came off today, but we’re all in pretty good shape,” Wack said. “We’re expecting to beat this team pretty handily.”

Tonight’s match will mark the official return of sophomore opposite Evan Patak, whose injury sent the starter from last year to the bench for the final three weeks of fall training.

“Patak will see some time; he’s healthy, [but] won’t start,” Preston said.

On the downside for the Gauchos, they will be without the help of sophomore outside hitter Jake Wiens tonight due to academic problems.

“We’ll see what happens with Jake; right now the morale is good, but if we lose Jake it might be a little different because he’s a major part of our team,” Preston said.

Experienced and confident heading into tonight’s match, the Gauchos are anything but afraid to take on the Dinos.

“We’ve got five starting seniors and everybody trusts each other,” senior opposite/middle blocker Adam Ulfers said. “We’ve been together for a long time and everyone is aware of what the other guy can do [on the court].”