Dec. 31, 2008
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - It's the New Year and that means the UC Santa Barbara men's volleyball team is gearing up to host its 45th Annual Elephant Bar Restaurant Collegiate Invitational, the premier tournament in the nation that showcases the top teams and players in the sport. Joining the Gauchos this January 9th and 10th will be fellow Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) squads BYU, Cal State Northridge, Long Beach State, Pacific, Stanford, UC Irvine, and UCLA.
The tournament kicks off with four opening round matches on Friday, Jan. 9 at 1 p.m. UCSB takes on Pacific, Cal State Northridge plays UCLA, BYU faces off against Stanford, and Long Beach State goes up against UC Irvine. Second round play gets underway Friday at 7 p.m. Santa Barbara's two matches take place at Robertson Gymnasium, while the others will be contested at the Events Center (The Thunderdome).
On Saturday, Jan. 10, action continues with the seventh/eighth place match at 11 a.m. The fifth/sixth place match is at 1:30 p.m., the third/fourth place match is slated for 4 p.m., and the championship bout is set for 6:30 p.m. All four matches will be held at Robertson Gymnasium.
The tourney not only gives fans the chance to come out and see some of the best and most exciting collegiate men's volleyball in the country, but it also serves as a preview to the upcoming season in the ultra-competitive, tough-as-nails MPSF.
"This tournament has always been a great way to kick off the season," said first-year UCSB head coach Rick McLaughlin. "It has always fielded a very talented group of teams and this year's field is no different."
Seven of the eight participating teams are ranked in the top-15 nationally, while six of those are found in the top-10. The AVCA preseason national rankings, which were released Dec. 30, ranked UCLA No. 2, Long Beach State No. 4, Cal State Northridge No. 5, UC Irvine No. 6, Stanford No. 8, BYU No. 9, and UCSB No. 14.
Last season, Long Beach State advanced to the NCAA Final Four after winning the MPSF regular season title. UCLA was chosen to win the MPSF in 2009 by the league's coaches, while UC Irvine won its first national championship in 2007. BYU and Cal State Northridge finished second and third, respectively, last season in the MPSF and advanced to the league tourney. Stanford returns five of six starters from a squad that posted 17 wins in 2008 and Pacific returns talented outside hitter Jeff Hendershot.
UCSB returns five starters and a libero under McLaughlin. Sophomore outside hitter Jeff Menzel, who hails from Santa Barbara, was among the nation's leaders in kills and points as a freshman. With 10 returning letterwinners, the Gauchos will be in the hunt to return to the MPSF tourney for the first time since 2007.
"The stacked field will be a great challenge for us," said McLaughlin. "It's going to let us know right away how we compare with the top-ten and what we need to do to compete for a title. Plus, we get to experience this challenge on our home floor. You couldn't ask for a better way to open the season."
Alberta won the 2008 Elephant Bar Restaurant Collegiate Invitational. Stanford placed second, Long Beach State third, UC Irvine fourth, Cal State Northridge fifth, USC sixth, UCSB seventh, and Pacific eighth.
Fans that purchase tickets in advance will receive discounted rates for All Session Passes - $12 for adults, $9 for seniors (55 and over), and $6 for youths (ages 4 to 13). If not purchased in advance, prices for All Session passes are $15 for adults, $12 for seniors, and $8 for youths. Single day passes are also available for $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, and $5 for youths.
Tickets can be purchased several ways - online through Ticket Return, by calling the Ticket Office at (805) 893-UCSB, or by stopping by the Ticket Office in the Intercollegiate Athletics building on campus. Additionally, the box offices at the Events Center and Robertson Gymnasium will open one hour prior to the first match each day (noon and 6 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. on Saturday) for walk-up sales.
If you can't make it to campus, both of UCSB's Friday matches, as well as all four of Saturday's matches, will be available live via Gametracker here.
For more information on tickets, parking, match schedules, and participating teams, please visit the tournament Web site at UCSBgauchos.com/09ebartourney.
**UCSB - a nationally recognized university in both academic and athletic excellence - is located on the central coast of California in a picturesque campus and community setting on the Pacific Ocean. Each year over 450 Division 1 Gaucho student-athletes compete for national championships, succeed in the classroom, and give back to the community.**
- UCSBgauchos.com -