Patrick Pascual wanted to change.
His freshman year for Spring-Ford in 2013 featured more than its share of on-court success — third place in the Pioneer Athletic Conference singles tournament and qualifying for the District 1 tournament despite being the Rams' No. 2 all season — but something was missing.
"Last year when I was a freshman I didn't have that team mindset,' Pascual said. "I was more individualized and more focused on myself, not as much on the team. Looking back at last year, my attitude and how I acted on the court, I didn't like it and wanted to change for my sophomore year.
"One of the things I wanted to improve on this year was to be more a part of the team, support everyone more.'
A change in mentality led to a change in fortune in his sophomore season, Pascual becoming the dominant player in the PAC-10 as he swept the championships in the league singles and doubles tournaments (with partner Ryan Schweitzer) and qualified for the District 1 tournaments in both disciplines, earning him All-Area Boys Tennis Player of the Year honors.
Pascual's transformation into a team player is evidenced by how he ranks his two titles.
"My PAC-10 (singles) victory is memorable but I think the one that tops them all is me and Ryan's doubles championship. I knew how much he wanted it too.
"At the beginning of the year, I told him in the first couple days of practice, ' Ryan, me and you, we're going to get the gold this year.' We ended up winning it and it feels good to reach your goal.'
Even in what would have seemed to be his biggest singles win of the season, rallying to defeat Methacton senior Justin Baman in three sets in the regular season to exorcise his loss in the PAC-10 singles semifinals from a year earlier, Pascual had team interests in mind.
It was the reigning singles champ Baman who did the rallying in the previous year's tournament, winning 3-6, 6-3, 6-1. Pascual returned the favor in 2014, coming back for a 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory.
"I think what really affected me in the 1-6 set was not that he beat me, but how important the scale of the match was, being for the PAC-10 championship,' Pascual said.
"I needed to win it to do my part. I wanted to help the team win.'
The final result didn't go the Rams' way — a doubles sweep sent Methacton to a 4-3 win and eventually an undefeated run to the PAC-10 team title — but it wasn't for lacking of trying, especially by Pascual.
His transformation into a team player was evident immediately after the match,
Second place wasn't in the cards in the league tournaments though. Pascual made a dominant run to the singles title without dropping a set, downing Spring-Ford teammate Schweitzer 6-3, 6-0 in the final.
Pascual and Schweitzer joined forces three weeks later and cruised to the PAC-10 doubles championship, downing Methacton's Baman and Subanik Purkyashtra 6-1, 6-2 in the title match.
"I was pretty surprised at how well we worked together in doubles,' Pascual said. "It's fun, unpredictable, quick-paced where you don't know what's going to come next.'
What stands out with Pascual, beyond the even-keeled, winning mentality and consistent forehand, is that he's a throwback. In an era of single-minded, year-round focus on a sport, Pascual only kicks his tennis playing into full gear just ahead of the season. Unlike most top juniors, Pascual only participated in a handful of group clinics indoor during the winter as opposed to other players spending double-digit hours on court indoors in the offseason.
That led to some tense moments at season's beginning.
"In the beginning of the season at practices I was awful. I didn't even think I deserved to be on the team,' Pascual said with a surprising degree of sincerity.
"But I practiced a long time and kept playing and playing and eventually you'll get it back. I'm lucky that I was able to win the championship without playing a lot in the winter. I should be doing more in the winter really.'
That may change this offseason after Pascual was unable to reach one of the goals he set during the season: winning a round in the District 1 tournament.
Pascual's singles tournament was cut short in the first round by Henderson's Karl Hoegstedt (6-3,6-4) and his run with Schweitzer ended in doubles with a defeat to Conestoga's Ryan Swope and Max Howarth (3-6, 7-5, 6-1).
Another year of first-round exits from districts was tough to take for Pascual. But with two more opportunities to achieve his goals, he's already ready for another crack at it.
"Those are the big-time players. They aren't in districts for no reason. You really have to earn a win there. I was disappointed to not get a win but I'm hungry for next year. I'll work hard.'