Driven Molloy takes bowling title from Xaverian

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Motivation could be found in many places for Archbishop Molloy.

Xaverian, its opponent in the CHSAA bowling city championship, was the defending champion and had beaten the Stanners three times this season, the last coming in the Brooklyn/Queens final.

In addition, Molloy Coach Vinny Leonardo promised the senior-laden team that if it and the junior varsity squad won the city championship, he would take both to TGI Friday’s to celebrate.

Yet Leonardo has also given his team inspiration by just being there because he had battled back from prostate cancer and surgery to remain as coach this season. Patti Cacioppo, Leonardo’s daughter and assistant coach of 15 seasons, had taken on a larger role this season, but there was Leonardo coaching his butt off, trying to push his team to a title.

“It’s our last go-around,” senior Justin Gratta said. “It’s pretty much all or nothing. It’s the last match we are going to have at Molloy, the last time we are going to have to win something for Vinny.”

The Stanners didn’t let it pass them by.

They dominated the first game and lost narrowly in the second, but won their second city title in four years 1,974-1,876 on total wood at Paradise Lanes in Yonkers Feb. 10.

“It just makes everything, all the ups and downs during the four years I’ve been here all worthwhile,” Gratta said.

Gratta, who bowled a high of 247 in Game 1 of a 426 series, also had his own personal motivation during the match. His father, Glen, who usually works nights and is an avid bowler, was there watching.

“I just wanted to bowl to impress my father,” Gratta said. “He’s been my inspiration, the reason I started bowling.”

Tom Wengler bowled a high of 257 in Game 1 of a 449 series and Nick Galli rolled a 409 series with a high of 219 in Game 2 for the Stanners. Tom Agostino led Xaverian by rolling a high of 216 in Game 2 of a 425 series, Lenny Nuciforo had a 423 series with a high of 233 in Game 2 and Matt Restrepo added a high of 224 in Game 2 of a 414 series.

The Stanners dominated the first game, winning by a lopsided margin of 1,026-893. Led by Gratta and Wengler, four out of the five Molloy bowlers rolled strikes in the seventh, eighth and ninth frames. Wengler rolled eight straight strikes at one point as he and his teammates began to string them together.

“Strikes do get contagious,” he said.

Xaverian came on strong in the second game and led by more than 70 pins more than halfway through, needing to win by 134 to take the title. In the seventh frame, though, four of five Molloy bowlers again connected on strikes, putting down any chance of a comeback.

“It was damage control the whole time,” Gratta said. “We had to stay with them. As soon as we started piling on the strikes, it’s not mercy — we had to keep going.”

Just like their coach.

Leonardo was diagnosed with prostate cancer last February and had surgery last June, but decided to return as coach. His cancer is currently in remission.

“It’s been an uphill battle the whole year because of everything that has gone on,” he said. His daughter, taking on more coaching duties this season, has made things easier to deal with and kept everything running smoothly.

“I handled the practices on Saturday,” Leonardo said. “She handled the matches and we balanced the whole thing. One without the other didn’t work.”

Just like Molloy without Leonardo likely wouldn’t have either. Presently, his biggest worry may be the size of the check he will get when he takes his bowlers to TGI Friday’s, since both the varsity and JV captured city titles.

“I’m gonna have to [pay],” Leonardo said. “I always make good on my promises.”

Molloy (JV) 1,602, Xaverian (JV) 1,544: Sean Rodriguez rolled a high of 189 in Game 2 of a 373 series and Kevin Logar had a high of 188 in Game 2 of a 369 series to help lead Molloy to the CHSAA JV city championship. Frank Santangelo led Xaverian with a high of 182 in Game 2 of a 350 series and Danny Franschilla rolled a 170 in each game for a 340 series.

Posted 6:35 pm, October 10, 2011
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