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Wantagh golfer Faith Francioso makes the cut against the boys

Wantagh golfer Faith Francioso looks on during practice

Wantagh golfer Faith Francioso looks on during practice on Friday, June 2, 2017 in Wantagh. Photo Credit: Anna Sergeeva

Faith Francioso accomplished a goal that was five years in the making.

The Wantagh junior made the cut at the Nassau boys golf tournament, becoming the first girl to do so since Farmingdale’s Alix Lowe in 2014. MacArthur’s Annie Park was the first girl to win the event in 2012.

Wantagh does not have a girls golf team, so Francioso has played on the boys team since she was in seventh grade. She was one of two girls who competed in the Nassau boys tournament, while two girls played in the Suffolk boys tournament in the fall.

“I was very excited, being a girl to make the cut at the boys’ counties,” she said. “It had been a goal of mine for quite a few years. I had been playing in the counties since ninth grade, and being the first person from my high school to make the cut in a very long time was also a very good feeling.”

Wantagh co-coach Rich Colavita said Francioso was the first player from the school — boy or girl — to make the cut at the county tournament in 12 years.

Francioso shot an 80 on Day 1 of the tournament on May 23 at Bethpage Blue, which is considered more difficult than the Yellow and Green courses where the girls tournament took place. This made her one of 32 golfers to make the cut and play on Day 2, when she shot an 85 on Bethpage Red and tied for 21st.

“Because of the extra distance, my short game had to be very accurate that day,” said Francioso, who plays in girls tournaments outside of school. “We play from the back tees (in boys high school competition), so the courses are generally longer than I would usually play in a regular girls tournament.”

The performance capped a strong season for Francioso, who went 7-1 in conference play while taking on each opponent’s number one golfer. Her only loss came to South Side standout Ryan McCarthy.

Nassau coaches association chairman Tom Reynolds estimated there were fewer than 10 girls on boys teams in Nassau, while Suffolk coordinator Dennis Maloney said there were no more than “a half dozen” in Suffolk.

Though Colavita said Francioso played well from the start as a seventh grader, Francioso admitted playing on a boys team took some getting used to.

“The first few months, when I was in middle school, it was a little intimidating, being both the youngest player on the team and a girl,” she said, adding she didn’t hit the ball as hard and was shy around the older players.

By her freshman year, when Colavita said he moved her to the number one spot on a full-time basis, Francioso said she really started to feel comfortable on the team. “I was finally in high school and my scoring average came down a lot,” she said. “I gained some distance, the courses seemed a little easier, and my game really improved. I felt like, ‘OK, this is my spot on the team. I got this.’ And it just kept improving from there.”

“It’s really challenged my game,” she added. “It made me improve. I’ve been working in the gym to hit the ball farther. I don’t think I’d be where I am now as a player if it weren’t for this experience.”

She also said she has developed good relationships with her teammates.

“She fits right in,” senior captain Kyle Hughes said. “She’s a genuine person and I really couldn’t say a bad thing about her.”

As for whether Francioso would rather play on a girls team, she said she “really wouldn’t. I really like the competitive environment. I’m not saying it’s easier for the girls (teams) but I do think being in an environment where it is all boys has really pushed my game and myself as a person.”

Francioso said making the cut is one of her proudest accomplishments, inside or outside of golf, and is already looking forward to raising the bar next season.

“This year, the goal was making the cut,” she said. “Next year, the goal is states.”

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