Lighter moments, relaxed play help Bulldogs knock off Winthrop in NCAA first round

Kate Fuller had a perfectly-placed volley at the net in her second set that sent her opponent’s racket flying in an attempt to return it.

Fuller just walked back to the baseline and cracked a big smile.

The Georgia junior had enough to grin about — she was en route to a 6-0, 6-2 win at the No. 4 singles spot over Winthrop’s Giovanna Portiolli.

“It was just kind of funny,” Fuller said. “We had a little exchange at the net, and my volley was going away from her and she just threw [her racket] at it.”

Fuller, who has made it a habit this season to finish off her opponents at a rapid pace and get off the court first, was second off the court in the fourth-seeded Bulldogs’ 4-0 win over the Eagles in the first round of the NCAA tournament on Saturday.

“She’s just on go-mode, which is great,” Georgia coach Jeff Wallace said. “It’s just go, go, go. She comes in, attacks and just gets it done quick, which is fantastic. She’s really playing well.”

Fuller’s habit not only works in her favor in singles, but also with doubles partner Silvia Garcia, who together make up the top-ranked pair in the country.

The two devoured Winthrop’s Yasmine Alkema and Andressa Garcia 8-1 to help Georgia clinch the doubles point.

The match took 35 minutes.

“I think everybody came out and played really relaxed, played good tennis, so I think you could see some of the things we had worked on over the past few weeks come out on the match court, which is great,” Fuller said.

And in another laughable moment in Georgia’s win came on court two during doubles play.

Maho Kowase and Lauren Herring were in the midst of digging themselves out of a 3-0 hole when Kowase fumbled her racket in the middle of the court.

She didn’t panic. She just crouched down and started giggling.

Herring banged home a winner anyway, and the pair, ranked No. 52, strung together eight consecutive games to win their match 8-3.

“My grip was too wet. It’s humid out there,” said Kowase, who won her singles match on court two 6-1, 6-0.

“I didn’t know what happened. It was slow-mo. I wish somebody videotaped it, but it was funny. It was a good laugh. And we won the point.”

The Bulldogs (22-3) were rather relaxed throughout the match, and even moreso after Fuller and freshman Ayaka Okuno finished within seconds of each other to seal the victory.

The entire match took 2 hours and 7 minutes.

“I felt really good with all the hard practices that we’ve been having coming into this tournament,” said Okuno, who won her match 6-1, 6-2 and notched her first career NCAA tournament clinch. “I think we were all on top of our game and I felt really good too so it was awesome.”

Arizona State (17-5) awaits Georgia in the second round at 2 p.m. today. The Sun Devils eliminated Oklahoma 4-1 in the first round, though they lost the doubles point.

Wallace said he expects Arizona State to come out on a mission after dropping the doubles point against the Sooners.

“They’re a good team,” said Kowase, who is ranked No. 19 in singles. “They’re going to play well for sure because it’s the last tournament, too. But we are ready to take them down, so hopefully we’re going to play well.”

Fuller, Kowase and Okuno said the they’re just enjoying playing tennis with no distractions.

And that’s what Wallace said he wants out of his players.

“There’s just time periods in life that things are just gonna be most memorable that you’ll never forget and this needs to be one of those periods for them,” Wallace said.

Bulldogs piling on thanks to turnover-hungry defense

by Marc Weiszer

An online headline from an Athens Banner-Herald story in October of 2013 no longer would apply: “Georgia defense near bottom of pile in forcing turnovers.” A year... Full Story

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J.J. Green could be on move back to defense this week http://t.co/kcoIQlKZcG #UGA

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