Malchu Pascual was truly taking a white-flag lap in his scholastic career this spring.
The Spring-Ford senior was looking to close out his high-school tennis endeavors with a third straight Pioneer Athletic Conference singles title — a feat previously performed by his older brother, Patrick — and making a more productive run in District 1 singles. But the COVID-19 pandemic that put the United States and other parts of the world in stay-at-home and self-quarantine mode put a damper on Pascual’s hopes.
It was going to be his last go-round in the sport. While he’s heading to the University of Maryland this fall, the college does not field a men’s tennis program.
So his scholastic competition actually ended in the spring of 2019, with a 16-1 record (11-0 PAC), the repeat league singles championship and reaching the quarterfinal round of districts.
“It’s really disappointing to not have a senior season,” Malchu said, “because it would have been the most exciting year of the four I played tennis.
“Definitely a big part of the disappointment was, I really wanted to tie the (championship) record. Missing out on the chance to go farther in districts also played a big part.”
Pascual’s other accomplishments in 2019 were a team-up with Adit Jain to finish as runners-up in the PAC Doubles Tournament, and his second selection as The Mercury All-Area Boys Tennis Player of the Year. His primary challenge that season was dealing with the distinction of being the league’s defending singles champ.
“I felt this year there were a lot of people trying to take me down, coming in as the defending PAC champion,” Malchu said at the time. “In the end, it doesn’t affect me. I just go out and take care of business.”
Pascual got his business in order starting against Methacton’s Harsha Santhanam and Perkiomen Valley’s Will Ye. He followed with a 6-0, 6-0 sweep of the Vikings’ Aaron Fry in the PAC semifinals before dispatching Phoenixville’s Josh Starczewski 6-1, 6-0, in the final.
In the league’s singles tournament, he dropped just nine games against four opponents, all of whom he dispatched in straight sets on the way to the repeat title.
“It’s something I understand, being at the top,” he said. “There’s always people trying to take your spot, get the better of you.”
He and Jain were the PAC’s representatives to go furthest in the District 1 Class AAA competition. They outlasted Quakertown’s Zach Pernia and Andrew Miller in a three-set opener, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3 but bowed out with a 6-2, 6-1 setback at the hands of Wissahickon’s Andrew Tran and Vidat Makwana.
“It was definitely a different experience than last year,” Pascual, who teamed with Nolan Schweitzer the previous year, said. “Learning how a partner thinks and reacts.
“We tried to work well together, and establish good communications.”
It all helped the Rams to a solid season. They went 10-1 against PAC opponents and 14-2 for the year.
“For me, it’s more like the experience … getting team experience,” Pascual said about the 2019 season. “I got good experience with that this year, and the past three.”
To keep his hand in tennis, Malchu occasionally works out with Patrick, who finished his college studies last semester.
“That’s about it,” he said. “I may play some tennis here and there this summer. It’s a possibility, but I haven’t given it much thought.”
At present, Pascual is involved with Spring-Ford’s on-line schooling. His feelings about the setup are mixed.
“It’s okay,” he said, “but obviously it’s better to be physically there (school).”
For college, where he plans to major in computer science, the plan for the fall semester is being impacted by the COVID-19 situation.
“I’m waiting to see what develops with the pandemic restrictions,” he said.