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Montville duo in perfect sync

Featured Paige Godau, pictured above, was paired with Jillian Garfunkel, slideshow, at first doubles for the 2014 season. Photos by Maryann Harlow Paige Godau, pictured above, was paired with Jillian Garfunkel, slideshow, at first doubles for the 2014 season.
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MONTVILLE _ Jillian Garfunkel is the loud one.

Garfunkel, a senior and half of Montville's standout first doubles team, is quick to blurt out whatever pops into her head.

"I have no filter," she said. "I say what comes to mind. That's just the way I am."

The outspoken Garfunkel has blended perfectly with Paige Godau, a junior, on the tennis court. If Godau, low-key and subdued, was exactly like her, Garfunkel feels that "it just wouldn't work as well."

On Saturday, Oct. 18 at Mercer County Park, the 19th-seeded Mustangs once again relied on their unique and successful chemistry when they clashed with second-seeded Kim Szakats and Emily Roeper of Montgomery in the final of the NJSIAA doubles finals at Mercer County Park. Garfunkel and Godau fell, 6-2, 6-4, but relished their incredible run.

"I can't imagine if Paige was like me," said the left-handed Garfunkel, whose specialty is her serve. "That wouldn't be good. I guess it's true that opposites attract."

Prior to this season, Garfunkel was paired with Joanna Fass for three seasons. In 2013, that duo claimed the MCT first doubles crown. Godau, playing with Alice Li, garnered the second doubles title at the same MCT.

Godau, of course, enjoyed the journey through the doubles bracket with Garfunkel, a childhood friend. They stunned the fourth-seeded tandem, Oak Knoll's Jackie Grieco and Ali Baiocco, 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinals. In the third round, fifth-seeded Emily Sroczynski and Laurel Hickey of Chatham, MCT champions at first doubles, fell to Garfunkel and Godau, 6-3, 6-0.

In the quarterfinals, they ousted top-seeded Anya Zakusilo and Sydney Zirlin of Millburn in a match with a tiebreaker.

"The tiebreaker was a little scary," Godau said. "They got the first three points but we got the next seven. We made a few errors. Taking the tiebreaker boosted our confidence."

Godau found out over the summer that she'd be paired with Garfunkel. The two had been friends since second and third grade when their families became acquainted at the Lake Valhalla Club. The girls learned the basics under former Mountain Lakes High School coach Mickey Ferguson there and currently train with Gene Molina at The Knoll.

"I was glad to be with Jillian," Godau said. "We know each other well. We've been friends a long time. Jillian is experienced with the states. She's good with pressure and nerves. She likes strategy. I was excited and thought it would be fun."

Mustangs coach Ken Sachs noted that the duo is making history. Previously, the highest-seeded doubles team to compete in a final was ranked 10th.

"Jillian and Paige, sharing seven years of varsity tennis experience between them, have chosen the ideal time to peak in terms of their respective games," Sachs said. "They truly epitomize the definition of team as their individual talents complement one another. They are a very dangerous team right now."

Godau, whose groundstrokes are her forte, and Garfunkel believe what makes them click is their willingness to speak up.

"We help one another," Godau said. "I tell Jillian when she's doing something wrong and she tells me. We correct things, like if there's a mistake with the execution of point or if one of us doesn't snap our wrist on an overhead (shot). We make each other feel good. We boost each other up."

"I've known Paige almost my whole life," Garfunkel said. "We're not afraid to say something if something goes wrong. We're very open with our feelings and emotions. We may get offended but we get over it. We have a connection even when we don't play tennis."

Because of that connection, they have vacationed together, including trips to the Jersey Shore. Garfunkel and Godau, whose older sister, Kirstin, now plays for Lehigh, love to go to Marra's Italian Deli in Pine Brook for sandwiches. Garfunkel's favorite is the eggplant, mozzarella and roasted red peppers sandwich while Godau prefers the grilled chicken with mozzarella and roasted red peppers. They planned to make a stop at Marra's before heading to the state doubles final.

Garfunkel, whose fourth cousin, Art, was half of a renowned folk music duo, has fun teasing Godau, whom she describes as "quiet yet hilarious when she does talk."

"I like to make Paige feel awkward," she said with a laugh. "It's so funny."

During a match, they are at their best, in harmony, when Garfunkel is volleying at the net and Godau is returning serves. They hoped, of course, to be in top form for the final. They relish tournament time. A year ago, Montville claimed the Group III title and was a Tournament of Champions semifinalist.

"We'll play our game and try our hardest," Godau said two days before the final. "We didn't expect any of this. It's really exciting to get this far."

Last modified onSaturday, 01 November 2014 23:38
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