GEOFF SMITH

Assistant Sports Editor

BENNINGTON -- The Southern Vermont College men’s basketball team has more wins through four games (3) than the squad did through all of the last two seasons.

The Mountaineers even picked up seven votes in the Division III Top 25 poll this week.

But SVC team is not content just being recognized.

"When the guys heard about it, they were excited about it that we are scratching the surface," coach Dan Engelstad said. "But we feel upset that we left one on the table. We are using it more as motivation than that we have arrived."

The "one left on the table" was a loss to Rutgers-Newark during day two of the Williams Tip-Off Tournament, a 65-55 loss that is the only blemish on the team’s 3-1 record so far.

The Mountaineers come into this week after an extended break for Thanksgiving. While Engelstad said he was nervous not having his players for a long stretch, he noted that the team came back as sharp as before.

"It was a break that was needed for everybody," Engelstad said. "It allowed us to get refreshed. [Practice] has been really good the last couple of days. You can tell the guys are excited to get back and get back in the gym."

With three games upcoming this week, Engelstad is hoping that his rested team can improve its record to 6-1.

The journey will start on Tuesday, as the Mountaineers travel south to Elms College for a New England Collegiate Conference contest. It will be the only conference game for the Mountaineers until January. Elms enters the contest as last year’s NECC champions, and the preseason No. 1 team in the conference. The Blazers enter the game with a 1-4 record.

"It is a good test to go on the road," Engelstad said. "Seeing them on film, they are very athletic, they love to play in transition. They want to dribble-drive, and use their athleticism to their advantage."

While the Mountaineers can counter with some athleticism of their own, Engelstad said that his team needs to win the battle of the interior to come out with a win.

"We are going to have to take advantage of our size inside, pound them on the glass," Engelstad said.

Point guard play will also be a significant factor in the contest. The Blazers have done a good job of turning people over this season, averaging 10 steals and 3 blocks a game so far, the team is also averaging 17 turnovers a contest.

"That is one thing we hope to do, turn them over," Engelstad said. "One thing that I think we do have an advantage with is point guard play. It is something we did with Sage as well. We are hoping that our depth can be a factor."

After the tilt with Elms, Southern Vermont will return home for two days before participating in the Tri-State Shootout, hosted at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. SVC will play St. Joseph’s (VT) on Friday at 8 p.m. The winner will advance to play the winner of hosts-MCLA and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute on Saturday at 3 p.m. The consolation game will be played at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

"This is a great opportunity to play against some of the local teams and teams that are usually really good," Engelstad said. "There are bragging rights on the line. We want to win championships, and this is a great opportunity for that."