Pascual uses unique approach to repeat as PAC-10 champion, Mercury All-Area Player of the Year

Patrick Pascual sees things differently.

Some players might have felt a weight on their shoulders as a defending league champion entering their junior season. They could feel like they are being chased by every other player trying to take that place.

But the Spring-Ford junior, who won the Pioneer Athletic Conference singles tournament championship in 2014 as a sophomore, isn’t ‘ some players.’

Reclaiming a championship is cause for celebration. It’s not a relief though. From Pascual’s perspective, the own chase he should be concerned about is his own.

“I wasn’t thinking about other people. I was thinking about myself and taking it match-by-match and hopefully I could win every one,’ Pascual said.

“The first time (sophomore year) I was just so relieved that I won it (the PAC-10 singles tournament). As a freshman I lost it and I really wanted to come back the next year and win it. The sophomore year win was more of a relief; this year was satisfying because I was able to do it again.’

Satisfaction came in the form of a second-straight PAC-10 singles title for Pascual, downing Perkiomen Valley’s Luke Pain in straight sets in the final on April 18. He doubled the feeling in the PAC-10 doubles tournament, teaming with TJ Cruickshank to take the championship. By winning both league titles in back-to-back years, Pascual solidified his place as the league’s top player to become the two-time Mercury All-Area Player of the Year.

He sees his tennis training differently, too.

Pascual’s training begins and ends with his family, parents Pancho and Maria, who moved to the United States from the Philippines in the mid-1990s, a few years before Patrick was born. It’s a tennis journey with humble beginnings and proof of what passion can create.

“My dad and my mom just played for fun when I was still little. We have courts in our neighborhood so we just walk there,’ Pascual said. “Myself and my little brother took a liking to it, we watched it a lot on TV and my dad began to watch tennis videos of pros. He started learning and then he started teaching me and now we try to take things from the pros and try to apply it. That’s how we progressed through the years.’

Most high-level juniors spend hours upon hours with a teaching professional in lessons and clinics, training indoors for year-round play.

Pascual’s ‘ team’ is tighter.

“I don’t go to a club or camp or programs, it’s just us,’ he said. “We talk over what we should do. We have a camera and we video ourselves. We try to work on something and we go back to the tennis videos we saw and decipher if we did what they say and had the proper technique and move on from there.’

The Pascuals are doing something right. Their commitment and attention to detail is reflected in his textbook strokes and service motion.

Ahead of this spring, Pascual’s focus was on improving the mental side of his game, too.

“Even if you work really hard, if you don’t have the right strategy, that every shot has a purpose … if you’re just hitting the ball, even if you have the belief you’re not going to win,’ Pascual said. “I tried to dictate points more. Naturally, I think I’m more of a defender.’

The more assertive Pascual went undefeated through the PAC-10 season, dominating nearly every league opponent. Perk Valley’s Pain managed to push Pascual to a third-set tiebreaker in their regular season meeting. But Pascual pulled the match out, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6, the Monday before the league singles tournament.

They were bound to meet again in the final, but Pascual wasn’t as forgiving the second time around, rolling to a straight-set victory, 7-5, 6-1, after a tight first set.

The singles tournament victory was all in his hands. The same can’t be the case in doubles and Pascual was left searching for a partner when Rams’ No. 2 Ryan Schweitzer, Pascual’s partner for last year’s tournament, went down with an injury early in the season. He felt fortunate to have sophomore TJ Cruickshank waiting in the wings.

“When Ryan was injured I was thinking ‘ Who am I going to play with?’ I have a lot of good friends on the team so it was hard to choose,’ Pascual said. “But TJ has that drive, too. He wants to win it. He was enjoying it, always positive, pumping himself and me up, which was really nice. We enjoyed every minute playing together.’

The positive partnership led them to the PAC-10 doubles title, downing PV’s Pain and Yashveer Singh, 6-3, 6-3, in the final.

Pascual achieved a goal he was unable to reach the year prior by winning a match at the District 1-AAA Championships, defeating Henderson’s Matt Crawford, 6-4, 6-0, in the first round. But the satisfaction ended there for the increasingly-driven Pascual. He wasn’t an up-and-coming underclassman anymore and placed greater expectation on himself.

His singles season ended familiarly, in a defeat to Henderson’s Karl Hoegstedt for the second-straight season. Pascual took the first set, but Hoegstedt gutted out a tight second set and pulled away in the third for a 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory. Pascual was the only player to take a set off of Hoegstedt in his run to the final — he finished second to Downingtown East sophomore and eventual PIAA runner-up Michael Dickson, 6-1, 6-4 — but Pascual isn’t interested in moral victories at this stage.

“Sophomore and junior years were pretty much the same, just a difference of one match win. But I want to go farther. You don’t want to settle for just quarterfinals or semifinals. You want to win the tournament, that’s what you’re there for,’ he said.

“I want to at least qualify for states — I think when senior year comes around I’ll be ready.’

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