Franklin Regional golf teams tee off with different levels of experience
By Doug Gulasy
Published: Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Experience is the buzzword for the Franklin Regional boys and girls golf teams this season. However, the two squads return very different levels of experience.
Both teams began their regular seasons earlier this week, looking to match or exceed last season's winning records.
Below is a look at the teams:
The Franklin Regional boys golf team finished 8-4 in section play last season but missed out on the WPIAL team tournament after finishing behind Fox Chapel and Kiski.
With eight of last season's nine golfers returning, however, coach Jeff Traphagen believes 2013 could be a different story.
“Obviously, you have younger golfers coming up in each program,” Traphagen said. “But with the number of seniors and experience we have, we like our chances. The top two teams in each section move on to the WPIAL semifinals, so we're looking to place first or second in our section.”
Senior Matt Fisch and juniors Aaron Fallat and Eddie Zhang are the team's top returning players from a season ago, but they will be joined by seniors Nolan Betts, Hassan Chugtai, Mike Gabrin, Brendon Gallo and Stephen Jacob and junior Mike Krauza.
Only Krauza, who played on the junior varsity team last season, is a newcomer to the varsity level. He replaces Nate Hlozek.
Traphagen said all the players earned their spots on the team after getting tested during last week's tryouts.
“It was a little rough early on in the tryouts,” he said. “I had a couple freshmen who were playing really well. But the seniors stepped it up on the third day and sealed their spots on the team, which was nice.”
The Panthers opened their season by competing in Latrobe's Gary Garrison Invitational on Monday. The team was scheduled to host Kiski on Tuesday and travel to Plum on Wednesday before hosting Penn Hills on Friday afternoon.
Franklin Regional will also face defending WPIAL Class AAA champion Pittsburgh Central Catholic and 2012 playoff team North Allegheny in non-section play.
“We'll see how things work out,” Traphagen said. “It's just going to be a rotation to try to see who can set themselves apart at the beginning of the season. Hopefully down the stretch, I'll be able to put three more names with the first three names (Fisch, Fallat and Zhang) and just have a consistent lineup.”
The 2013 Franklin Regional girls golf team looks very different than the one that finished second in the section last season and advanced to the WPIAL playoffs.
Because of the graduation of six seniors, including full-time starters in Alex Schwab, Breanna Molinaro and Jordan Woyt, only three players with varsity experience return.
“We don't have a lot of experience on the team,” coach Kane Daignault said. “There's a big learning curve in golf, so we're excited to get out there and the girls are excited to be out there.”
Senior Jen Brand, junior Brenna Scott and sophomore Livia Molinaro return for FR this season. Scott and Molinaro played extensively last season.
Those three will be joined by first-year players in senior Elizabeth O'Donnell, juniors Lauren Gillespie, Diane Smith and Maddie Thomas and sophomore Hannah Strobel.
Daignault said many of the players don't have a lot of experience playing full rounds.
“Golf's not something where you can just go out onto the driveway and play, so many of these girls haven't had the opportunity to play nine holes and just getting out there and being on the course,” he said. “I plan on them improving greatly over the year and getting better and hopefully, those girls being able to compete throughout the year.”
The Panthers began section play Tuesday with a home match against Kiski. The team is scheduled to travel to play Shadyside Academy on Thursday.
“It's common to get (players) to improve by five to 10 strokes over the course of the year,” Daignault said. “We had a great year last year. I would love to build on that. … It was fun, and the girls had a great time winning. So did I.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5830, via email at email@example.com or via Twitter @dgulasy_Trib.
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