WEST CHESTER - Down three games in the second set of the Ches-Mont National Division Championship, Downingtown East's Michael Dickson just wanted to focus.
At that point in the match, that's all the freshman could do.
Dickson's opponent, West Chester Henderson's Karl Hoegstedt, just stole the fifth game from him without a spectacular shot or return.
The loss was all Dickson's doing. He committed a double fault on back-to-back serve opportunities and was letting the second set slip away from him.
He didn't panic.
"It's tough to get your head back into it,' Dickson said. "I just looked at my strings and told myself to get back into it. I just found a way.'
Dickson used that mentality to rally back in the set as the freshman won six of the next seven games to clinch his first Ches-Mont singles title with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Hoegstedt at Henderson High School Saturday.
Dickson became the first Downingtown East player to win the National Division. Playing the game numerous times with Hoegstadt, also a freshman, he felt the need to credit him for such a good match.
"I play Karl all the time,' Dickson said. "He's such a good player and I'm glad I came out on top especially with him playing so well.'
Despite the straight set victory, every point was hard to come by for Dickson. There were occasions in the match where it looked like Hoegstedt would take control for good, but Dickson kept his composure through it all.
When adversity got to Dickson, the freshman just went through his normal routine.
"Take a deep breath and walk in the corner,' Dickson said. "Then I think of something that I would laugh at. Sometimes it's a song, slogan, or whatever is going through my mind.'
"(Michael's) a very experienced player and he has all the tools,' East head coach Chris Waychunas said. "There's little I could do, but just remind him to stay on track and not lose focus. What he does to stay focused is great, because I love music.'
Dickson looked like a freshman the minute he served his first ball in the championship. His racket slipped off his hands and onto the court in a bizarre incident which halted play for a couple minutes.
But instead of panicking, Dickson showed the mentality of a senior. Or someone who has played in big matches before.
"In tennis plenty of things happen that you don't want,' Dickson said. "It's just how you react to it.'
Dickson responded with holding serve and eventually winning the opening set, rallying past Hoegstedt in winning the final three games.
Hoegstedt carried plenty of momentum to start the second set with that 4-1 lead after Dickson's double fault.
Just like the opening set, Dickson rallied back. He broke Hoegstedt's serve twice in winning four unanswered games to take a 5-4 lead.
Hoegstedt answered with holding serve to force a 12th game in the set. Unfortunately for the Henderson freshman, Dickson wouldn't let it go any further.
Dickson won the final two games, the last one breaking Hoegstedt's serve for the fourth time for the day, to clinch the championship and a potential seed in the District 1 Class AAA Tournament on April 25.
Hoegstedt finished second in the tournament and also earned an automatic bid to the tournament. The final National Division entry went to Avon Grove's Billy Rocker, who defeated Henderson's Andrew Maza 6-2, 6-1 in the third place match.
Dickson entered the tournament as the top seed and lived up to it with the victory. Hoegstedt, the second seed, give Dickson all he could handle in the final.
With both players being freshman, the potential is there for Dickson and Hoegstedt to meet again for the title over the next three years.
But Dickson isn't thinking about the budding rivalry. Instead, he's looking at the fact one of his goals has been accomplished.
"It's the starting goal,' Dickson said. "Now it's on to districts and see where I can go from there. We'll see how it goes. I don't have much to lose.'
Ches-Mont National Division Championship
(1) Dickson (Downingtown East) def. (2) Hoegstedt (West Chester Henderson) 6-4, 7-5.
(3) Rocker (Avon Grove) def. Maza (West Chester Henderson) 6-2, 6-1.
(1) Dickson def. (3) Rocker 6-1, 6-3.
(2) Hoegstedt def. Maza 6-2, 6-1.