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Queens team places in citywide bocce tournament

Bocce player Angelo Visone was confident.

“I’d say there’s a 95 percent chance that we will win,” said Visone, a resident of Middle Village, standing right in front of some of his opponents.

“Yeah, they are the favorites,” acknowledged Giuseppe Commesso, one of the competitors.

Visone’s words were justified. In 2000, his team placed second in the annual citywide bocce championships. On Saturday Visone, his four teammates and about 16 other bocce teams faced off in the Queens Bocce championship in Juniper Valley Park. Three teams, including Visone’s, advanced to the city championships Sunday in Staten Island.

Visone’s team, which also included John Pistone, Dominic Ventura and Sandy Agostelli, ended up as they did last year, winning second place citywide.

Although this year was only the seventh annual tournament, bocce is not a new sport to New York City or Queens. The game, which is believed to have originated in ancient Egypt and spread throughout the Roman Empire, was brought to the United States in the 19th century by Italian immigrants.

Under tournament rules, two teams of four players each take turns rolling bocce balls — made of a clay compound and slightly larger than baseballs — as close as possible to a pallino, a ball about the size of a golf ball, on courts some 70 feet long. Every time a team gets one of its bocce balls closer to the pallino than the opposing team, a point is scored. The team that is the first to reach 12 points wins. The games take about 45 minutes.

The tournament had been rescheduled from Sept. 15 due to the World Trade Center disaster. In honor of the victims, a group of children sang the “Star Spangled Banner” at the beginning of the day.

With the sun shining, temperatures close to 80 and the music of Frank Sinatra blaring, a crowd of about 100 gathered to watch the competition.

“I’m not up to that class yet,” said Robert Kurz of Ridgewood, who watched from the sidelines. Kurz said he hoped to participate in 2002. “They play good. Some of them have played 30 to 40 years.”

Pistone, a Woodside resident and teammate of Visone for 35 years, said he played bocce as often as he could.

“We play here almost every weekend as long as the weather is nice,” he said.

Although traditionally a man’s game, several of the competitors in the Juniper Park tournament did not fit the stereotype of a bocce player. One boy about 12 years old competed with his father.

Nevertheless, Paulette Foglio of Flushing noted the lack of women at the tournament.

“I was the first woman to be asked to be a member of the association,” she said, referring to the Juniper Park Bocce Association.

Foglio, who won her first two games, hoped to upset Visone’s team.

“I think we have a very good chance,” she said. “We have an excellent team.”

The winning teams of the Queens championship took home restaurant gift certificates. Visone’s team won theater tickets to “Proof” for taking the Queens championship, $300 and a bocce set for its second place finish overall.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

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