Victory milestone: Women’s tennis coach Wallace earns 600th win

Jeff Wallace didn’t get one water cooler dumped over his head.

He got two.

The Georgia women’s tennis team gave the head coach his 600th career victory with a 7-0 sweep of Arkansas on Sunday.

The milestone victory came at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex, too.

“I guess (winning the 600th at home) means you get double-dunked,” said Wallace, who has been head coach for 27 seasons.

The stealthy duo of Lauren Herring and Kate Fuller got in the first dunk 30 seconds into post-match interviews.

Mostly ice in the first cooler, it was decided a second one full of only water was necessary.

“I don’t think he expected the first one to have so much ice, and then the second one he just wasn’t ready for,” Fuller said. “When it’s a day like that — 600 wins — you’ve got to. You’ve got to do it.”

The Lady Bulldogs started out the day by clinching the doubles point. 

Herring and junior Maho Kowase cruised to an 8-2 victory over Yang Pang and Brittany Huxley before Fuller and freshman Silvia Garcia defeated Claudine Paulson and Segou Jonker 8-3.

Fuller kept rolling in singles play, extending Georgia’s lead to 2-0 with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Huxley at the No. 4 spot.

Huxley started to fight back at the end of the first set, but Fuller laid the hammer down before quickly closing out the match.

“I was up serving for the first set and got broken and I was a little bit annoyed just because whenever you lose your service game it kinda gives you a little bit more motivation to break right back,” Fuller said. “I was able to break right back and was able to find a lot more rhythm and was playing points the way I wanted to play them in the second set.”

Mia King won 6-2, 6-0 at the No. 6 singles spot to move the No. 3 Lady Bulldogs closer to the team victory before freshman Ayaka Okuno clinched the match at No. 5 singles. It was the freshman’s first career clinch.

Fuller said that the team’s depth is displayed in the consistent play of the pit — courts four, five and six.

“We are in the pit, but our team together, our bond is always there,” Okuno said. “We had a little pit talk before and we were like, ‘You know this is where it’s at.’ We pump each other up just like up there. We all played awesome today and got our matches done.”

And even after the Lady Bulldogs had earned the victory over No. 50 Arkansas, they wanted to go for the sweep. 

Slideshow: Jeff Wallace earns 600th career win

Garcia got a 6-2, 6-2 win at No. 3 singles, and Kowase pushed the score to 6-0 with a 6-2, 6-4 victory at No. 2 singles.

That left Herring as the only Lady Bulldog left on the court.

With both teams watching from court two, Herring dropped her first set. That the stage for an intense second set and tiebreaker with some vocal outbursts from Herring and Arkansas’ Pang.

“I’m pretty emotional on court, so those sometimes get under by skin. But the coaches make it a point to tell me not to let that get to me,” Herring said. “A lot of times I’ll say something, but it’s really not bothering me too much on the inside. I just kinda want (the officials) to know that I thought (the shot) was in.”

The sophomore muscled out a 4-6, 6-3, 1-0 (10-5) victory, sealing the sweep. 

“I definitely wanted to win for myself, but more than anything I wanted to sweep for (Wallace), being his 600th. So, I was pretty much gonna do anything out there on the court to get the win,” Herring said.

And now Wallace sits in an elite class — he is one of three collegiate women’s tennis coaches to have 600 wins. He is also the winningest active women’s tennis head coach.

“I haven’t even really thought about that. I’m just excited about what this team is accomplishing this year, and maybe some day I’ll sit back and look at that. But for me, it’s just where we’re at this year with this group,” said Wallace, whose team is now 17-2 overall and 10-1 in the Southeastern Conference. “We’ve got all the most important stuff right in front of us in the near future, and we just wanna keep working and finish strong with this team.”

—Rachel G. Bowers is assistant sports editor for onlineathens.com. Follow her on Twitter.

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