Their match should've been over in minutes considering their substantial lead. Instead, it turned into a mini-marathon as Sparta's Brittney Nielsen and Kezia Santos came bounding back to force a third set.
There was more tension as the third set went to a tiebreaker but Garfunkel and Fass pulled it out, winning, 6-1, 5-7, 7-6 (7-5), to help the Mustangs to a 3-2 victory over the Spartans in a North Jersey Section 1, Group III semifinal on Thursday.
"I think we kind of got too cocky," said Fass, a sophomore. "We let those games go."
Garfunkel, a freshman, said she personally "lost confidence" when Nielsen and Santos made it 5-3 in the second set.
What happened beyond the seventh game of the second set was not pretty. Still, despite frequent unforced errors, Garfunkel and Fass persevered and got Montville its third and decisive win, earning it a berth in the sectional final versus Northern Highlands.
While others may have turned their attention to other matches still in progress with Garfunkel and Fass enjoying a commanding lead, Montville coach Ken Sachs didn't.
"I knew better," Sachs said. "They're inexperienced."
Sachs, of course, was certainly grateful for their passionate, hard-fought effort.
"Jillian and Joanna made it more exciting than it had to be," he said. "I love the both of them. I love the whole team. They're all great kids."
According to Fass, the duo prevailed by deepening their focus and trying a new strategy in which both of them stood at the baseline.
The tiebreaker, said Garfunkel, was "not very fun." She believes much of it comes down to luck and that it's best to play it safe.
Once the match ended, providing Montville with its third and decisive win, cheers came from the bleachers. Garfunkel and Fass smiled as they left the court.
What did they learn from the match?
"You shouldn't think that it's over when it's not," Garfunkel said. "It's not over until you're shaking hands."
Mustangs sophomore Kirstin Godau found herself in a few tough predicaments in her second singles match against Sparta junior Breanna Vitolo.
Godau, the MCT champion at her position, lost the first set, 4-6, hindered by unforced errors. She then won the second, 6-2. Ahead 5-2 in the third, she took awhile to close it out at 6-4 as Vitolo came up with well-placed shots.
"I didn't play great in the first set," Godau said. "I needed to be smarter. I needed to play to win the point. When I was ahead 5-2, I realized I needed to focus more. To win as a team, we needed me to win my match."
Montville benefited from an injury at second doubles. Samantha Metz and Alyson Resnikoff won when Sian Barry and Emily Cacciaguida retired. Cacciaguida sprained her ankle. At the time, the Mustangs were leading, 3-2.
Sparta took third singles as Katen Dioneda beat Molly Smith, 5-7, 6-2, 7-6 (7-1).
Sophomore Shirley Wang of Sparta came out on top at first singles, 6-2, 6-0, over Kaitlin Sanzone.
Wang, out from late Oct. of 2010 until last March with a broken foot, was pleased with her result against a quality player because she's been off her game.
"I think I was getting it back today," Wang said. "I missed a lot of practice time when I could've improved a lot."
Solid first serves and angled and drop shots powered Wang. She kept Sanzone on the run.
"I'm bouncing back," she said. "I'm still not as good as last year but getting better."
Wang remains alive in the NJSIAA Singles Tournament and will play again Saturday.
"It may have been a little different if we didn't have the injury at second doubles," Spartans coach Jeff Hughes said. "It would've been an interesting scenario. Still, it was a great match and everyone stepped up their performance."
The Minutemen (14-1) won their singles matches in straight sets and defeated Chatham 4-1 in a North Jersey Section 2, Group III semifinal on Thursday at Twin Oaks Center Court in Morristown.
First Singles: Casey Marx (M) def. Kelsey Perselay, 6-0, 6-2
Second Singles: Katie Gutknecht (M) def. Emily Barbey 6-3, 6-2
Third Singles: Tara Buchney (M) def. Julie Edgar 6-2, 6-2
First Doubles: Caroline McCann/Kendall Contri (C) def. Hayley Keith/Veronika Fojtu 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3
Second Doubles: Michelle Miller/Gabriella Coradini (M) def. Ashley Perselay/Emily Sroczynski 4-6, 7-6 (9-7),6-2