With only one match before the Big West tournament next week, the UCSB men’s tennis team is already preparing for their first round opponent, UC Davis. But before they quest to retain the Big West title, which they have held for three years running, the Gauchos host Loyola Marymount this Saturday. With their eyes on the tournament, the Senior Day match would be easy to overlook, but Head Coach Marty Davis stressed its importance.

“It’s a big momentum builder heading into the tournament,” Davis said. “And it’s our chance to acknowledge [lone senior] Max Taylor, who’s done quite a bit for the program.”

Junior Scott Hohenstein, who was named the UCSBgauchos.com Athlete of the Week this week for his dominance over University of San Diego in singles and doubles last week, is also making a point of not looking past Loyola.

“I think we should win it, but it’s going to be a good match,” Hohenstein said. “It’s Senior Day and our last home match, so everyone should be pretty fired up about trying win our last match at home.”

Of his success against USD, Hohenstein credited his aggressive play, as well as his improved conditioning over previous years. This is the first time since his freshman year in which Hohenstein has been able to put together a full season without major injury.

“I thought I was playing pretty well, especially in singles,” Hohenstein said. “I didn’t want to stay in rallies with him forever, so I was trying to go for winners, and it was working. I’ve been keeping myself in better shape too. It’s making it so I don’t get injured as much, especially with little injuries. I can’t really help falling off a bike and breaking my shoulder, but before I had a lot of little injuries too, which would keep me out for a week here and there, and those have gone away.”

Santa Barbara needs its whole roster at full strength if it hopes to make a good showing, already down junior ace Phil Therp for the season. Junior captain Josh Finkelstein, who has been consistently playing very well as of late, once again stressed the importance of the doubles point in the final matches of the season.

“I think doubles is going to be really important again,” Finkelstein said. “We’re going to have to win the doubles point again to have a chance to take it one match at a time. [UC Davis] could be pretty tough, but we should be able to beat them.”

Earlier this season, UCSB was able to defeat UC Davis 5-2 with the help of the doubles point. Though that match was good for the Gauchos’ confidence heading into the Big West tournament, Coach Davis was weary of letting that get in the way of victory.

“I think we feel confident against Davis, but that could also mean overconfidence,” Davis said. “It would be great if we were focused and could win quickly, because that would leave us better rested for the very final match against Pacific. What I’m hoping is that we’re not overconfident and our guys are not looking around for someone else to win. They have to take care of their own court.”

Davis, Finkelstein, Hohenstein and the rest of the team will look to be on top of their games this weekend and into next week, when the tournament begins on Friday. Scott Hohenstein, for one, knows about the increase in intensity when teams are fighting for the championship.

“People come out with a totally different mindset in the Big West Championships,” Hohenstein said. “We’re going to have to play well every single match, but I think we have a good chance of winning it. But it’s going to be difficult and every single match is going to be super close.”