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When Carroll County High School senior Sergio Pascual went down with a fractured tibia against Walton-Verona toward the end of soccer season, doctors told him he would not be able to play tennis this spring; there was no way the leg would be strong enough.
But Pascual proved everyone wrong.
He dedicated himself to rehabbing his leg and was back on the court at the start of the season. He was undefeated and dropped just one set the entire regular season.
His commitment to tennis, as well as his academics, is why he was named the 2012 Male Student-Athlete of the Year. The award is presented by The News-Democrat and sponsored by Earl Floyd Ford.
It was a 50-50 ball and both Pascual and a Walton-Verona defender were going for it. Pascual got there first, and the opposing player kicked high and straight through his tibia, fracturing it.
“I instantly knew it was broken,” Pascual said. “Everything about that injury, I’ve seen it before in professional soccer and I just knew it was broken, how it felt and everything. My parents didn’t think it was broken, my coach, no one thought it was broken. But we went to the hospital and the x-ray said it was broken.”
Originally, doctors said it would take 6-8 weeks to recover. Instead, Pascual spent six weeks on crutches and then was put in a walking boot for four weeks. He busted his butt during physical therapy sessions three times a week after school at Carroll County Memorial Hospital, working on his core and his arms as well as his rehabbing his leg.
Pascual finished the season 12-0, just one of two players to go undefeated in the region, and he won the No. 1 singles category in the NCKC tournament. Ranked as the No. 5 singles player in the 8th Region, Pascual defeated the No. 1 singles player from Franklin County, 6-0, 6-0, in the opening round. That was the only player to take Pascual to a third set during the season. Pascual eventually lost in the semifinals against the No. 1 ranked player in the region, but it was enough for him to achieve his goal of qualifying for state.
He traveled to Lexington to compete and was very impressed by the University of Kentucky tennis complex. “I’ve never played in a place like that,” he said. “They had stadium arenas, and it was just incredible. For a day, you felt like a professional, basically, and I absolutely loved it.”
Unfortunately, Pascual woke up sick the day of his match. But he played his best, ultimately falling 6-1, 6-2 to Morgan County. He also impressed a lot of coaches with his performance.
Pascual has been playing both soccer and tennis since he was two or three years old. “They were always sports that (my family) loved, and my dad quickly got me into them as soon as I could go out there and run,” he said. “They were always my two favorite sports, and I’ve always been equally into both of them.”
Pascual attended Christian Academy of Carrollton through his junior year of high school and decided to transfer to CCHS for his senior year. He had debated the move in the past because he had friends at the public school. At the same time, he did not want to leave his CAC friends and it was all he knew. However, after attending the Governor’s Scholars Program at Murray State last summer, he decided now was the time for a change.
“After the Governor’s Scholars Program where I was there with so many people, 300 plus, I just felt like I needed to move somewhere with a bit more people and more opportunities in that sense,” he said.
Transferring to CCHS gave Pascual the opportunity to compete against larger schools and take part in the local rivalries.
“The competition this year has been really, really great,” he said. “I absolutely love rivalries, playing against the Trimbles, the Gallatins, but at the same time, I like playing against the bigger schools, the South Oldhams, the Shelbys, because that’s where, as a tennis player especially, you can see what you can do on the court as opposed to the smaller schools that might be just starting out in tennis. But I really like playing against the big guns just to show that Carroll can come out to play.”
To Pascual, there is no sport like tennis.
“In my opinion, it’s the most elegant sport,” he said. “You really show your true colors as a person on the tennis court as opposed to other sports. All (of) the spotlight is on you; people constantly watching to see what you’ll do, how you’ll react to a point and that’s where you have to be the bigger person and not show it and … just be elegant on the court because that’s what tennis is, it’s about elegance.”
On his nomination form, head coach Juan Fernandez said, “Sergio has demonstrated throughout the season his talent and commitment to the team. (He is) always supporting other members of the team, (has) a great attitude and is very coachable.”
In addition to playing basketball and tennis for CAC, Pascual also competed on a Gallatin County traveling soccer team during elementary and middle school. His family also belonged to the Tennis Club in Louisville and he attended the Top Gun Junior Academy for tennis. The family switched to the Five Seasons Sports Club in Northern Kentucky last year.
Pascual spends 5-6 days per week playing tennis. During the season, he does not miss a practice and usually stays after to hit with his dad. He always plays on Saturday in the morning and afternoon and takes Sunday off to rest. Before this season, his family would go to the tennis club Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday to play. However, since he also was a member of the CCHS soccer team, he spent the fall focused on soccer.
His dedication to tennis has paid off, as Pascual will play for Thomas More College next fall. His sister, Maria, also plays tennis for the school. “I am beyond excited,” he said. “I am so ready for college. I love Carroll County, I love CAC, but I am ready for college. I’m ready for college sports especially. I’m really excited. I love it up there.”
Pascual also will have a five-day tryout for the soccer team once the fall season gets underway.
Outside of sports, Pascual plays piano and enjoys spending time with his family and friends. “Apart from sports and school, that’s my life,” he said.
At Carroll County, Pascual maintained a 4.0 cumulative GPA and was ranked seventh in the class. He was a member of Pep Club, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, intramurals and Survival Club.
Pascual said his parents have always stressed the importance of academics, something his tennis coaches also emphasized.
“From day one on the tennis court, they told us, ‘Look, if you can’t learn how to balance sports and academics, you don’t need to be out here,’” he said. “Coach Juan always stressed that academics was first, as it should be, and that’s something from growing up at CAC (and) at home my family and my teachers would always stress also. So, for me, academics was always first, even after moving to Carroll where I knew I would have all the opportunities to play sports.”
Pascual also is known for being friendly and personable. He said a running joke during the year was the fact that he became known as “‘the player from Carroll County,’ and player in the sense of I think I got a total of 50 plus numbers from girls this season,” he said with a grin.
He was voted the Sportsman of the Year, an award given by the coaches to the most respectable tennis player in the region.
“(My dad) said that if you throw a racket or something like that, you’re giving the other opponent help,” he said. “They’re seeing that you’re weak in that sense, but he says that the number one thing is sportsmanship and that’s what Coach Juan also drilled into us.”
He was put to the test during his re-match against Franklin County in the first round of regionals. Franklin County has the reputation of crowding the fence around the tennis courts and saying things to the opponents.
“I walked over to my assistant coach, coach Brian and I was like, ‘Look, Brian, these guys are saying stuff and I can’t concentrate and he goes, ‘Sergio, you won the Sportsman of the Year award for the region. It’s given to the person who exhibits the most sportsmanship. Now just go out there and prove that you deserved to win that.’
“And that’s what I did. I went out there, played my game, kept my calm and ended up winning.”
Pascual credited his coaches with a lot of his success this season.
“My coaches were excellent. I couldn’t have asked for better coaches. Coach Juan has always been a family friend, but at the same time, he was always the coach that would still tell you things after you won a match because he wanted every single aspect of your game to be perfected. He was never the coach that was satisfied with any win. He always wanted to push me extremely hard and in that sense, he felt like a family member.
“Coach Brian wasthe one that always made me keep my head; he always calmed me down. You could really tell he was a pastor in that sense too because he knows how to talk to kids. He really knows how to motivate them.”