Daily Dawg Thread: October 21, 2023

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Daily Dawg Thread: October 21, 2023

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Jalon Walker: Connect To Compete by Makenzy Wolford

While not as flashy as “Keep chopping wood,” or Georgia head coach Kirby Smart’s latest motivational phrase “Eat off the floor” inspired by the All Blacks rugby team, the importance of connection cannot be understated.  

The expectations of a program that claimed the college football crown in back-to-back years requires a faith that the one at your side will catch you when you fall. A brother behind you rather than just another number on a flaming-red jersey. 





Sophomore linebacker Jalon Walker understands this importance. From coach’s kid to an ambassador of the most coveted team in the land, Walker lives his life forging bonds – bonds that spark both understanding and success. 

Walker earned playing time as a true freshman in all 15 games of the 2022-23 season. He initially served on special teams units where he notoriously blocked a punt against Kent State that led to a safety, before earning his way into the defensive rotation. Nolan Smith’s season-ending injury against Florida created a hole in which Walker was gladly willing to help fill. 

The freshman phenom would go on to record his best stats in the most important of contests: three quarterback hurries in the College Football Playoff Semifinal against No. 4 Ohio State and four quarterback hurries in addition to a 10-yard tackle for loss in the National Championship against No. 2 TCU. 





After only one year in the Bulldog football program, Walker was chosen as Georgia football’s  representative for the Southeastern Conference Football Leadership Council. A single athlete from each team is chosen by the coaching staff to travel to the SEC office in Birmingham, Ala., and “serve as a conduit of communication to the conference office on issues related to student-athlete experience and student-athlete wellness,” as described by the SEC. 

Walker took the opportunity to heed Coach Smart’s words even outside of Athens and connect with the student-athletes from other institutions. The men from the other side of the line of scrimmage sat face-to-face, talking “smack” but more importantly establishing an understanding of one another.

“We play against each other throughout the year, but we don’t know each other without our helmet,” Walker explained. “Just getting that time to get to know them on a personal level, it really hits different. To see them in their own program, being a successful aspect for their program, and looking back like I really know that guy.”

Relational leadership existed in Walker’s life long before Smart came onto the scene as it was modeled for young Walker everyday by his father Curtis. For the majority of Walker’s youth, the senior Walker was the head football coach at Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C. 

“Seeing that role of my father being a head coach for many years … seeing him do his speeches and seeing him address players, just seeing that leadership role of him affecting the community and where we stayed, it just rubbed off on me and it’s just part of my personality,” Walker said.

Now halfway through his sophomore season with the Bulldogs, Walker continues to impact the defense even if his stats aren’t gaudy. Always an edge threat when on the field with a killer first step and the mobility, as well as maturity, to drop into coverage when needed. Beyond his onfield performance, Walker is consistently the first to celebrate the success of his teammates – running to his brothers to congratulate them because he knows what they play for.

“I want to know why the person next to me is practicing so hard. I want to know what I can do and what I can say to motivate them to do better,” Walker said. “You love to see the guy next to you have success.”

Though in different fashion than the past two championship seasons, success still permeates the Georgia football program. Recruiting, impressive facilities, a talented coaching staff and a culture of excellence can all be credited with the recent success Georgia has acquired, but connection cannot be ignored. 

And for Jalon Walker, it is prioritized.

WTennis: Dawgs dominate with nine wins on day two of the ITA Southeast Regional Championships

The Georgia women’s tennis team produced a dominant display with nine wins on the second day of the ITA Southeast Regional Championships on Friday. 

The morning opened up with doubles play as the Bulldogs grabbed two wins to open main draw action in the round of 32. The first pairing of juniors Mai Nirundorn and Guillermina Grant faced off against Sophia Biolay and Jantje Tilbuerger (UCF). Competing as the tournament No. 1 seed in a pro set format, the Georgia duo wasted no time building momentum as they made quick work in an 8-3 victory. The second duo of freshman Aysegul Mert and sophomore Anastasiia Lopata were slotted against Laura Putz and Millie Bissett (Florida State). The tandem opened play as the No. 8 seed as they carried a strong start all throughout the match as they closed out the match for an 8-3 win.  

The Bulldogs did not slow down in singles action as four of five players won their respective round of 64 matchups with three winning their ensuing round of 32 matches to record seven total wins. The first singles victory of the day for the Bulldogs came courtesy of No. 16 Nirundorn completing a three-set comeback against Xinyi Nong (Miami). After dropping a close 6-4 first set, Nirundorn rebounded with a more convincing 6-2 second set win to level the match at one set apiece. Narrowing down to a deciding third set, Nirundorn produced a battle-tested performance which saw her secure the final set at 7-5 to win the match 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.  

Seeded at No. 14, Mert shortly followed up with her victory against Maelie Monfils (Florida State). Mert cruised to a 6-3 first set win before a late effort from Monfils swayed the second set opposite at 7-5 to level the match. Heading into the third set, Mert held control early and managed to pull ahead before securing the 6-4 third set to win the match 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.  

Freshman Gracie Epps began her main draw action with a match against Magdalena Hedrzak (Stetson). Epps pushed early to try to regain some ground in the first set, but Hedrzak held on to secure the first set 6-3. Fighting to level the match, Epps fell short of sparking momentum as Hedrzak secured the match 6-3, 6-2.  

Competing as the No. 7 seed, Lopata faced off against Antonia Balzert (Miami) in her first round of 64 matchup. In the first set, Lopata won several games but ultimately dropped the set 6-3. Momentum shifted and Lopata produced a tight lead before she secured the second set at 7-5. Heading into the third set, it was all Lopata as she dominated to complete the 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 comeback and advance to Saturday’s action.  

Grant rounded out the five Bulldogs competing in the singles round of 64 as she faced off against No. 13 Leonie Schuknecht (Miami). Through two sets, Grant breezed past Schuknecht as she never looked back en route to a 6-1, 6-1 victory.  

In the round of 32, three Bulldogs prevailed and secured wins to pull through into Saturday’s round of 16 action. The first victory of the round came after No. 14 seed Mert faced off against Audrey Boch-Collins (Miami). Mert pulled ahead early and remained in control to start the match with a 6-3 first set win. Boch-Collins applied the pressure late in the second set, but Mert’s late match heroics completed the 6-3, 6-4 straight set victory. 

No. 7 seed Lopata took part in the most competitive match for any Bulldog on the day as she faced Katerina Mandelikova (FIU). The match proved to be a battle on both ends of the court as each set required a tiebreaker. In the first set, Lopata pushed the score to 5-5 before closing out the final two points to earn a one set lead. In the second tiebreaker, Lopata jumped out to a faster start as she capitalized on the momentum and capped off the match 7-6(5), 7-6(2). 

Coming off a straight set win in the previous round, Grant continued her dominant run against Maria Paredes (Georgia State). Despite allowing both sets to reach a tight 5-4 score line, Grant pulled through in crunch time to secure back-to-back straight set victories with a 6-4, 6-4 win against Paredes. 

No. 16 seed Nirundorn wrapped up the Bulldogs’ round of 32 action after facing off against Annabelle Davis (North Florida). Both players found success in the first set as they forced a tiebreaker which leaned opposite 7-6(5). Nirundorn held her own in the second set as she forced the score to 5-4 before falling short against Davis 7-6(5), 6-4. 


Date: Thursday, Oct. 19 through Monday, Oct. 23   

Location: Gainesville, Fla.   

Venue: Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex 

Live Videohttps://bit.ly/403aqCx 

Live Statshttps://bit.ly/45G2DvR 

Singles Results: Main Draw Round of 64 
[16] Mai Nirundorn (UGA) def. Xinyi Nong (Miami) 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 

[14] Aysegul Mert (UGA) def. Maelie Monfils (Florida State) 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 

Magdalena Hedrzak (Stetson) def. Gracie Epps (UGA) 6-3, 6-2 

[7] Anastasiia Lopata (UGA) def. Antonia Balzert (Miami) 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 

Guillermina Grant (UGA) def. [13] Leonie Schuknecht (Miami) 6-1, 6-1 

Singles Results: Main Draw Round of 32 
[14] Aysegul Mert (UGA) def. Audrey Boch-Collins (Miami) 6-3, 6-4  

[7] Anastasiia Lopata (UGA) def. Katerina Mandelikova (FIU) 7-6(5), 7-6(2)

Guillermina Grant (UGA) def. Maria Paredes (Georgia State) 6-4, 6-4 

Annabelle Davis (North Florida) def. [16] Mai Nirundorn (UGA) 7-6(5), 6-4 

Doubles Results: Main Draw Round of 32 

Mai Nirundorn/Guillermina Grant (UGA) def. Sophia Biolay/Jantje Tilbuerger (UCF) 8-3 

Aysegul Mert/Anastasiia Lopata (UGA) def. Laura Putz and Millie Bissett (Florida State) 8-3  

Photo/Video Flashback: Georgia vs. Florida 2022

Watch a fullscreen slideshow HERE.

Box Score

Video Highlights

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Greg is closing in on 15 years writing about and photographing UGA sports. While often wrong and/or out of focus, it has been a long, strange trip full of fun and new friends.

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