Dumbo can fly, but that’s because he has big, floppy ears.
The UCSB men’s volleyball team can fly as well, but what they lack in the floppy-ear department, they make up for in the ability to annihilate opponents.
Starting today, Santa Barbara will host the annual Elephant Bar Invitational, marking the 41st time the Gauchos have produced the event on Goleta ground.
Matching up today at 1 p.m. versus fifth-seed Long Beach State, fourth-seed Santa Barbara might have its hands full as the 49ers were the runner-up for the national championship last season. However, the Gauchos are favored to capsize Long Beach and are also hoping to capture the tournament title from last year’s defending champions, UCLA.
“[Besides winning], this tournament is more about finding the right combinations and to keep up our enthusiasm and intensity, as well as our skills,” Head Coach Ken Preston said.
Coming into his 27th year as Head Coach for the Gauchos, Preston is striving to lead the men to another winning season and looks to record his 444th career victory against Long Beach State.
“As a team we serve well and have a pretty good offense. [Our weakness] is our blocking,” Preston said. “I’m looking forward to starting the season though; we’ve been practicing way too much.”
The Gaucho attack will be led by senior libero Aaron Mansfield, along with the help of senior middle blocker Michael Kennedy, senior outside hitter Nate Wack, and junior setter Bart Kowalski.
“This year [I plan] to keep doing what I’ve been doing,” Kowalski said.
Considering that what he’s been doing is dominating his competitors, especially with his 81-assist performance against Calgary on Wednesday night, Kowalski has reason to be confident.
“I’ve been waiting for the season to start for so long,” Kowalski said. “Everyone is working hard and we’re fired up. We’re looking to win the [Elephant Bar] tournament and our other goal this year is to win the national championship.”
In their match against Calgary, Kennedy and Wack led the Santa Barbara offense with a combined 27 kills and are looking to step it up further in this afternoon’s contest.
“I’m pretty pleased with their performance [against Calgary], considering we’ve only had two practice games,” Preston said.
The Gauchos had a short practice yesterday to refine their skills and go over their game plan for this afternoon.
“We’ve been working on our blocking and passing a lot,” Kowalski said. “[Long Beach] is always a good match, but this is the year for us.”