GRATERFORD >> It was the toughest opponent — and most challenging match — he faced all weekend.
But Malchu Pascual was up to the task at hand.
After breezing through three rounds of play in the Pioneer Athletic Conference’s Singles Tournament, Pascual found himself squaring off against Phoenixville’s Graham Light in Saturday’s championship match at Perkiomen Valley. It was a rematch of their regular-season duel little more than two weeks earlier, where Light posted a straight-set victory in helping the Phantoms edge Spring-Ford 4-3.
This time, however, Pascual prevailed. The Ram sophomore topped Light 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 to return his program and family to prominence in the PAC’s boys tennis hierarchy.
“Today, I knew what to expect,” Pascual said. “It was going to be a challenge. I had to be ready for this, and it worked out.”
Pascual was coming off a 6-1, 6-0 dispatch of Upper Merion’s Jaden Mayer in the semifinal round — a tougher pairing than his first two of the tourney, where he went 6-0, 6-0 against Owen J. Roberts’ Sam Savage and Upper Perkiomen’s Adam Dockery. Light, in turn, was extended to three sets in his semifinal with Methacton’s Harsha Santhanam, rebounding from a 6-4 first-set loss with a pair of 6-2 wins.
That represented a significant period of “down time” for Pascual, who had at least a two-hour break prior to finding out his opponent for the title match.
“He had gone through a long, tough match,” Pacual said of Light, who faced a three-set pairing with Methacton’s Adam Zhang in Friday’s quarterfinal, “and he possibly might have been tired. But I knew I had to be 100 percent.”
It was a back-and-forth opening set, Light going up 6-5 after Pascual held 3-2 and 5-4 leads. The Phoenixville senior and tournament’s top seed rallied to force the tiebreaker, which Pascual won by a handy margin.
“It doesn’t give me an advantage or disadvantage,” Pascual said of long breaks between matches. “I don’t need a long rest. I can start right away or three hours later … it doesn’t matter.”
“He came out Friday with a different look in his eyes. You could tell he meant business,” SF head coach John Brennan added. “It was a great grind in the first set, Graham coming back to force the tiebreaker. Malchu had been playing behind the whole time.”
Pascual got the early lead in the second set, only to see Light reverse it 2-1. But he went back in front 3-2, off a tight game with Light, then ran the table the rest of the way.
“That was a crucial game in the set,” Pascual said. “That could have decided the match either way. I knew I had to win the game.”
Pascual is following in the footsteps of older brother Patrick, a singles champion from 2014 to 2016. Patrick and the Pascual parents were at the courts watching Malchu, the tourney’s second seed, become the Rams’ sixth singles titlist in Brennan’s 14 seasons at the helm.
“They’re not the same person,” Brennan said in comparing the brothers. “They both want to win, and they have similar drives.
“Pat also grew as a player. Malchu is more stubborn — he’ll admit that, too — but he listens more. He’s grown as a player and person.”
The third-place match went to Mayer by default, Santhanam unable to compete due to cramping in his legs. Mayer will join Pascual and Light in representing the PAC in the Class AAA portion of the District 1 Singles Tournament April 27-28 at Legacy.
NOTES >> Adam Zhang (Methacton) won the fifth-place match with teammate Krishna Suraesh, 8-2. Zhang took the first quarterfinal set with Light 6-3, at which time Light came back with 6-2 and 6-4 victories. … Adam Dockery (Upper Perkiomen) will be the PAC’s representative in the district’s Class AA bracket. He lost to Suraesh in their fifth-place playback, 8-5.
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