Franklin Regional girls golfers preparing for first team playoff experience
A special tee time awaits Franklin Regional's girls golf team at 10 a.m. on Oct. 11.
That's when the WPIAL Class AAA team championship will tee off at Cedarbrook Golf Course in Belle Vernon, and for the first time since 2006, the Panthers will be one of the teams participating.
Franklin Regional ended its postseason drought by finishing second to Penn-Trafford in Section 3-AAA this season, which leaves it as one of only six teams that will compete for the Class AAA title and a berth in the PIAA championships.
“We've been really happy with the way the season is going,” senior Alex Schwab said. “We've been practicing a lot, and we've had some close matches. But our coach tells us every shot counts, and we've been able to win those matches.”
For all of the Panthers, it will be the first taste of postseason golf. For the seniors, including Schwab, Breanna Molinaro and Jordan Woyt, the WPIAL tournament also will be their final high school match unless the team was to win and advance to states.
“I'm really excited, but I'm kind of sad that it will be the last time I'm playing with the team,” Woyt said. “But I'm still really looking forward to it.”
“It'll be a really good experience, and since it is our last year, it's really great that we were able to go all the way to the playoffs,” Schwab said.
The end to Franklin Regional's playoff drought wasn't the result of moving to an easier section, as sometimes happens in realignment years. Instead, it was the result of steady improvement by the Panthers' players, which allowed them to succeed against perennial powers such as Shady Side Academy and Fox Chapel, who were last year's playoff teams from Section 3.
Franklin Regional won its first meeting against Fox Chapel — the second was postponed beyond this edition's deadline due to rain — and swept Shady Side Academy in two matches, the first two times FR's current players had beaten the Indians.
“When we beat Shady Side at home by six strokes, I think that was (the biggest match),” Schwab said.
“It was really close, and we were happy to finally beat them. They've always been the biggest competitor for us,” Woyt said. “When we finally beat them, that was the turning point when we thought we could actually do this.”
Penn-Trafford is widely considered the favorite entering the WPIAL final, which means from two section matches, Franklin Regional's players know how high the bar is set, and they're getting ready for the challenge of Cedarbrook.
“We're practicing at the WPIAL course, so that will definitely help,” Schwab said.
“All we can do is go out and do our best,” Woyt said.
Heading into the final, Schwab, Molinaro and Woyt all will play for FR, as will sophomore Brenna Scott. Either Livia Molinaro or Nicole Lockwood will be the team's fifth player for the championship, according to head coach Kane Daignault.
Daignault also said the increased exposure from making the playoffs has led to inquiries about the team from prospective players for next year, and he hopes more parents and player interested in the golf program approach him or email him at the school.
As for the current crop of players, regardless of the finish next week, this season has no doubt been a memorable one.
“We're all really good friends, and we all support each other. It's really nice to see everyone play so well,” Schwab said.
“We're definitely a really close team. We go out and we have fun together,” Woyt said. “We're just happy to have won all these matches.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.