It’s fairways and greens for Franklin Regional girls golf team

Friday, September 13, 2019 | 6:52 PM

Franklin Regional’s girls golf team is growing — larger and stronger.

The Panthers are off to a good start to the season at 5-2 (4-1 in Section 3-AAA), but there are more positives than just the overall record for a team on pace for its third consecutive postseason berth.

This year’s group has the potential to be Franklin Regional’s strongest ever from top to bottom, and there’s no better judge of that progress than longtime coach Kane Daignault.

“We shot the best score I’ve had in 12 years of coaching this team,” Daignault said of his team’s 174 at Murrysville Golf Course in an Aug. 22 section win over Connellsville. “Here we’ve got all juniors with a freshman and a sophomore, and I think they’re playing exactly like they thought they were going to do. We have a good group of kids that practiced a lot in the summer.”

Leading the way for the Panthers are junior Lila Shilling and sophomore Caroline Tragesser, a duo Daignault hesitated to call No. 1 and No. 2 because of their nearly identical nine-hole averages hovering around 44.

The pair shot season-best rounds of 39 and 38, respectively, in that low-scoring Connellsville win, showing their potential to advance in individual WPIAL competition.

“I definitely think, if they play the way they’re capable, they can qualify (for the WPIAL tournament),” Daignault said. “We talk about playing the course, because sometimes they get worked up over who they’re playing against, but they’re both capable of doing it.”

Two players don’t make a team, and the Panthers have shot quality scores behind their leading pair.

Junior Brooke Horvath, freshman Gwen Shilling, junior Reilley Woehler and junior Michelle Gau give Franklin Regional enough depth to compete. The team sits second in the section behind regular frontrunner Penn-Trafford despite having just one senior, Anika Kumar.

That combination of youth and depth reveals a growth in the Panthers program far beyond what Daignault began with when he started coaching the team.

“It helps when you make the playoffs a couple years in a row, and people see that and start getting involved,” Daignault said. “We have 15 girls on the team this year, where five or 10 years ago, there were years where I only had six or seven and was struggling to form a team.

“I think we have a good feeder system with our freshmen and sophomores, too. With all but one player coming back, I look forward to next year.”

The Panthers still have business to attend to this year, however, starting with the second half of section play.

Franklin Regional has a chance to extend its playoff streak to three years, and by doing so, it would have a shot at improving last year’s seventh-place finish in the team semifinals. The Panthers also aren’t ready to concede the section to Penn-Trafford, which they face a second time on Sept. 18.

“Definitely the top two (is our goal), if not the top one,” Daignault said. “We still play P-T again, and we played really poorly against them the first time. It’s been a long time since we won against them, but we’re not going to give up on beating them.”


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