MOBILE, Ala. - A pair of Georgia College & State University senior tennis players head to Mobile, Ala. for the Super Bowl of Small College Tennis this weekend, playing for a National Championship in doubles. Erick Siqueira (Sao Paulo, Brazil) and Justin Pickham (Armidale, Australia) first started competition as a doubles team Sept. 12 at the Georgia College Men's Fall Championships. The duo won the Flight-A title and hasn't looked back since.
Pickham and Siqueira are the first Georgia College tennis players since 2002 to win the Southeast Region titles, when Luiza Biktyakova and Mia Paavilainen won women's doubles. The last male GCSU participant was 2009 Hall of Fame Inductee Jay Torrence who won the 1994 Region Singles Championship. The only other male doubles title came in 1992, when Lars Lindblom and Jonas Frisk took top region honors.
Eight teams will converge on Mobile's Copeland-Cox Tennis Center to decide the best Division II doubles squad. After that step, the top teams from Division II, NAIA and Division III take on each other for bragging rights as the top team in Small College Tennis.
"What makes Justin and Erick so successful is their totally different styles of play that mesh so well together," said GCSU head coach Steve Barsby. "Erick is so solid on the return. He just rams it down your throat and makes you do something with it athletically. Justin is more cerebral, using his movement to his advantage, always knowing where to be and where to put the next shot."
The pair buzzed through the region championships, their only scare coming in the round of 16, as they out-lasted Armstrong Atlantic State University's doubles squad of Danzinger and Fitzgerald 9-8. In the finals, Pickham and Siqueira dropped AASU's No. 1 doubles team of Johannsen and Array by an 8-4 tally.
"Justin is just such a talented doubles player, I'm constantly hoping to play at his level," said Siqueira about his running mate. "He knows the doubles game so well, I'm just hoping to not let him down. We didn't go into the region tournament thinking about winning the whole thing, but after the first challenges we thought we had something special."
Pickham echoes Siqueira's sentiments about the pairing.
"Some of the things that Erick can do on the court are amazing," he said. "I'm certainly not as good as Erick, so I need to anticipate where the ball will be in order to be successful."
Four All-American trophies are shared between the stellar players, as Erick has brought home awards to Georgia College in the last two seasons, and Pickham picked up a pair at the Junior College level in his two seasons at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College. He had to sit out last season, only able to help the team as a student-coach.
"I can't tell you how great it feels to be playing tennis that means something again," said Pickham. "I still feel at times that I'm shaking off the rust, but to play at this level is terribly exciting."
Siqueira has been paired with four different doubles partners in his four seasons at Georgia College, with plenty of success each year. After a 16-8 season in doubles with Brandon Lee as a freshman, Siqueira's sophomore campaign garnered him the first of his two All-Peach Belt Conference (PBC) honors in doubles with Rodrigo Yamauti. The second All-PBC trophy came just a year ago, working with classmate Francis Yoshimoto (Sao Paulo, Brazil).
"Justin is definitely the best doubles teammate I've had," said Siqueira of the talented lot. "I feel we have a great chance to win every time we go out."
The Bobcat duo has done just that, winning three of the four fall tournaments this season, all in the Flight-A brackets. The only tournament that ended short was the Southern Intercollegiates, competing against top teams in Division I at the tournament in Athens.
Bobcat tennis has never had a winner at this event, but the women's doubles have come in as runner-up in 2002, 2000, 1999, 1998, and 1997. Play begins Thursday.
The GCSU Department of Athletics sponsors 10 varsity athletic programs at the NCAA Division II level. As a Division II program, GCSU prides itself on balancing the life of the student-athlete, evidenced by the Bobcats' multiple appearances in post-season competition as well as documented academic success and community-service involvement. Follow the Bobcats and their positive impact on the Milledgeville community at www.gcsu.edu/bobcats.