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Molloy bowling looking to roll towards another title

However, arguably the most successful sport lately for the Briarwood school has not been one in which you hit a ball with a bat or shoot a ball through a hoop -- it is one in which you knock down pins with a ball.For the past 11 years, coach Vinny Leonardo and the Molloy bowling team have built what could only be called a dynasty."We have the best (bowling) program in New York City and everybody knows that," Leonardo said.Leonardo, who also coaches JV, has led the Stanners varsity squad to seven CHSAA city championships - including the last two - in his 11-year tenure and is poised to three-peat this year (the final match is on Jan. 14). Molloy also took home the CHSAA Brooklyn/Queens title on Dec. 21.The Howard Beach resident has done all of that under the radar - until recently. "When the program started 11 years ago, they had no idea what this was all about, but through the years we've developed a reputation of being the best in the city," Leonardo said.This year's star is an unlikely one - sophomore Richard Glinnen. In only his second year, Glinnen has moved up to the varsity team, only the third time a sophomore has played for the varsity in Leonardo's time at Molloy."He's probably the best sophomore that I've ever had," Leonardo said.Glinnen, a Greenpoint native, ended the regular season with a CHSAA-best 207.8 average and tied for the league's highest scoring game of the year (268) with teammate Evan Riccardi."(His teammates) have said things that (Glinnen) basically walks over water," his coach said. With or without divine intervention, because bowling is not as high profile a sport as basketball and baseball, it is difficult to obtain the type of players needed to sustain the success that Molloy has had for the past decade.Leonardo's trick? Get 'em while they're young.He has coached in the Junior Scratch League at Bellerose Lanes every Saturday morning for pre-high school players for the past 25 years. That is where he first met Glinnen (when he was 12) and where he develops most of his players before they ever enter the double-doors of Archbishop Molloy."The idea is to get the kids and keep them involved," Leonardo said.But Leonardo does not just develop players - he develops relationships. There is no doubt when you watch the team for any amount of time that the bowlers hover around the bald-headed, diminutive coach just waiting to gain his attention or good-naturedly try to get under his skin.One of the secrets, Leonardo says, is teaching the kids the proper time for having fun and the situations in which they should focus."Vinny teaches me everything," Glinnen said.At a place like Molloy where blue-chip athletes like Kenny Anderson and Sundiata Gaines have come and gone as much as any school in the city, Leonardo has taken a no-name sport and turned it into one that should be recognized and lauded."The way it's run, I think it's a little bit more recognized because we are so much a driven team," Leonardo said. "I tell (all the players), 'You got to work at what you do.' That's any sport."Leonardo has simply built this program from the ground up by preaching three things: hard work, dedication and character.And, well, maybe a fourth."(Practice) is every Saturday, no matter what," Leonardo said about his stringent weekly practice schedule. "When they get on my team, I tell them, 'Saturdays are mine."Reach contributing writer Marc Raimondi by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 143.

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